• Published 17th Jan 2019
  • 3,664 Views, 116 Comments

Harry Potter and the Equestrian Elegy - Maelaeran



The Battle for Hogwarts ends in catastrophe and Harry finds himself in a whole new world and in a new...body?

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Perspective 1 - Shining Armor

Warning: There is no Harry in this chapter, so feel free to skip it if you came for that or you don't like Shining Armor. I'll get into why this chapter was even made in the AN at the end.

Also, I made some minor cosmetic changes to Shining. Y'all probably won't even notice.

Perspective 1 – Shining Armor

Moondancer sat patiently in the lobby of the bank reading through a copy of 'Advanced Runic Configurations, Volume 3 by E. Nigma' while she waited for her daddy to finish up some business. The text on the book was a little blurry to her and she was glad that they were going to the optometrist after this to hopefully fix this issue.

She had only read through this book twice, after all.

“Excuse me, Miss? May I sit here?” a rather pleasant tenor tone rang in her ears, prompting her to look up from her page and meet the visage of a blue-maned unicorn stallion.

A stallion with a charming smile that was directed at her.

A very attractive stallion who was talking to her and waiting for her to respond.

She looked at the empty space on the bench she was sitting on and the rather crowded building that all had various ponies and even one or two griffins, occupying them already.

Moondancer's eyes twitched back to the stallion who she just noticed had a cast around his left forelimb with well-wishes in various inks and styles scrawled on it. She also took note that the pony was leaning slightly on his uninjured side.

A stallion who was also patiently waiting for her to actually say something already!

“S-sure! O-of c-c-course!” Oh gosh, she sounded like such a spaz right now. Luckily he didn't seem to mind and instead gave her a warm look of gratitude before dipping his head low in a bow and 'Oh Faust, what is he doing in front of everyone here-!'

“Thank you for your generosity, Lady Moondancer.” he looked up at her with a playful smile and winked at her. Moondancer giggled nervously, hoping her voice didn't crack before she considered the stallion's words.

“You...know my name?” Moondancer wasn't exactly unaware of her bookish nature or less than stellar looks. The only ponies that ever really noticed her were her parents, her teachers and the librarians at Canterlot's main library and Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns.

“Of course!” he gave a boyish grin as he sat down, a smile that sent a hot flush racing up her cheeks that she quickly covered with her book. “You're one of Twilight's friends, aren't you? I met you and the others at the park last weekend!”

Confused, Moondancer asked him, “Twilight Sparkle?” he nodded in confirmation, “How do you know her?”

“...She never mentioned me?” For a brief moment, Moondancer had the ludicrous vision that there was a raincloud that spontaneously appeared over the stallion's head who sported a miserable expression. Any sign of imagined dejection quickly disappeared in the face of the proud smile he wore on his face. “I'm her older brother! Shining Armor!”

“Wait a second...” Moondancer temporarily lost in those gorgeous blue eyes now frowned thoughtfully at Twilight's handsome older brother, “We were all reading together in a park, but...I don't...remember seeing you-”

Bang!

Her next words were cut off as a bombastic voice boomed throughout the building.

“ALL RIGHT, EVERYPONY, THIS IS A STICK-UP! FLANKS AGAINST THE WALL!”

The double doors at the front of the Equestrian National Bank had been slammed open and a trio of ponies – an earth pony and two unicorns – were standing with smug smiles at the entrance. Flabbergasted at the sudden turn of events, and more than a little scared, Moondancer peeked at Shining Armor who looked oddly...relieved at the trio's entrance.

'I really do need glasses after all, huh?'

~Equestrian Elegy~

'Hey, look! Bad guys! Now she won't find out that We were stalking Twily to make sure they weren't bullying her.'

Stalking is such an ugly word.

Shining preferred the terms of 'protective' or 'watchful' or 'making sure that Twily is safe and happy, but doing so in such a way that she doesn't know that he's there and won't get mad at him'.

'Sounds like stalking to Us.'

'Focus. We've got three targets. Roll for Initiative.'

'Ugh. Use a Free Action to comfort Twily's potential friend first, ya' dingus.

“Everything will be okay, Moondancer. Just make sure to stay behind me.” whispered Shining Armor reassuringly to Twily's friend as he looked at the would-be trio of robbers.

'Rolling for Perception!'

'Fourteen.'

Two cream-colored, muscular unicorn stallions flanked a dark green earth pony mare in the centre. The stallions bore Cutie Marks of large sledgehammers while the earth pony had a seed with green shoots coming out of it. All three of the ponies were also wearing several saddlebags.

'What's in the bag?!?!'

'Stop trying to be funny. We aren't. The stallions possibly have talents aligned to blunt force – their magic may reflect this as well. Talent of the mare might be one of expeditious plant growth.'

Maybe. But the floor of the bank was covered in stone tiles that was more than a few feet deep before any soil could be reached.

“DID I STUTTER?! FLANKS AGAINST THE WALL!” spat Sledge Number One, who fixed a gimlet stare on the transfixed people and ordered, “NOW!”

'Pretty gutsy deciding to rob a bank in the middle of a day, though!'

Very true. Perhaps this was merely a distraction for something greater?

Shining Armor remained calm even as a series of frightened screams (from the ponies and one of the griffins) and enraged cries (from the remaining griffin and a particularly pair of crotchety looking elder pegasi) broke out amongst the civilians. Step by step, he was gently nudging Moondancer towards the back of the bank so as to 'comply' with the robbers' orders like a good little colt.

“Just take nice and deep breaths, Moondancer. Don't look at them, just focus on me.” Shining continued to mutter gentle reassurances to the poor trembling filly even as he waited for the robbers to move just a bit further into the bank.

'The Summer Sun Celebration is tomorrow. The Royal Guard has been sent out all over Equestria to deal with the influx of travelers, leaving Canterlot a bit short-handed at the moment. Still, it's not like the Guard presence in the city is minuscule.'

'Good thing We're on vacation then, eh? More time to work out this little mystery~'

'This should be far enough, We believe.'

Sledges One and Two along with Green Seed had confidently strutted further into the bank and were far enough from the entrance that they couldn't make a quick escape in the off chance they were ridiculously agile.

'One Isolation Bubble coming right up!'

A pony's Cutie Mark was a special thing. While it did not define all that they were as some foals ('And some unfortunate adults.') might believe, it did mark what the pony was especially talented or proficient in.

For Shining Armor, anything to do with protection – whether or not it was magical – seemed to just click with him. Complex formulae for various barriers were unneeded as pure instinct helped him to design and discharge the spell in a manner that was just as efficient as his dear Twily was able to pull off.

A pleasant warmth suffused his body as his soul, heart and mind worked in perfect unison to build up the required mana needed and link it to the ambient energy in the air surrounding the robbers.

Schink!

A delicate looking web of dark pink lattices of energy surrounded the trio, curving into a spherical shape that pierced through the floor without actually damaging it. To give them credit, while the three were briefly taken off guard, their faces were fixed in scowls of concentration as they tried to break through the spell.

'Key word on 'tried'.'

Sledges One and Two's horns lit up, while Green Seed elected to simply punch the barrier as hard as she could. Belying it's fragile appearance, Shining Armor's 'Isolation Bubble' was as unyielding as Harmonic Steel.

'Or about half as thick as Iron Zest's skull.'

'Don't exaggerate. At best, the Bubble is only forty two percent as thick as Captain Iron's skull.'

There was a dull boom that resulted from each of the three's attacks, yet the bubble did not budge in the slightest.

“Gentlecolts. Ma'am.” Shining nodded pleasantly to the two unicorns and then smiled at the mare encased within the pink bubble.

“Royal Guard?” spat Green Seed.

“I'm actually off-duty at the moment.” he wiggled his somewhat injured forelimb in front of them for emphasis.

'Honestly. It's already been three weeks! A shattered humerus and a few broken ribs should not be proper grounds for a forced sick leave this long.'

'Or a thinly-veiled threat of threatening to tattle on us to Twily and Cadance if We do anything more than paperwork.'

“That being said...” The trio shivered violently at the smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, “I think that I'm more than capable enough of having a...conversation.”

The Captain of the Eighth Division of the Royal Guard hoped that a minor incident like this counted as 'taking it easy'.

~Equestrian Elegy~

Skrtch, skrtch, skrtch, skrtch...

Deep inside Canterlot Castle, a regular visitor to the hallowed halls would find a curious sight within an area reserved to the Royal Guard. While the ponies carried out their stalwart duty with aplomb and patrolled the castle with all the seriousness that was expected of them, a practised eye would notice that a small area was given a very wide berth.

...skrtch, skrtch, skrtch, skrtch...

This area happened to be the location of a rather nice looking office that bore a simple numeral of '1' above it's empty door-frame. The office was neatly arranged with filing cabinets, several chairs, a small cot, a large mahogany desk with a small photo frame, two framed certificates – one from the Royal College of Medicine and another smaller piece of writing signed by Princess Celestia herself – and a small potted lily that permeated the room with a subtle, yet pleasing fragrance.

...skrtch, skrtch, skrtch, skrtch...

The office was currently occupied by four figures, three of which were in front of the desk in varying states of consciousness and another behind the desk who was nonchalantly filling out some paperwork.

Shining Armor would be the first one to say that he was a rather unusual pony, if only in relation to his family.

Sure he had the typical family set up: a wonderful mother and father and an amazing 'Little Sister Best Friend Forever'. However, he doubted most ponies came from a long line of Royal Guards on their father's side or a mother who personally oversaw the largest library in Equestria.

Or who had a very special and absolutely adorable little sister who was so talented in magic that she was personally picked up by Princess Celestia herself to be her pupil at the age of five.

While he wasn't nearly as good as his family was (and not even close to his little Twily), Shining still thought he had done a decent enough job for himself at twenty three years of age.

Granted, it wasn't like he was the Head Captain...('Now that would be just silly. We're not nearly scary enough to be in Her position-' 'Avert Our eyes!')

...skrtch, skrtch, skrtch, skr-

The Head Captain briefly looked up from her form and caught Shining's eye before it could escape. He ruthlessly fought the urge to shiver as she once again examined his somewhat ruffled appearance: A slightly singed mane and a bit of dried blood on his cracked cast from when he had used it as a makeshift club. Shining Armor barely managed to stop himself from sighing in relief when she returned to her work.

“Hm.”

'Holy Faust, Mother of All. We thank you for your blessings and the life we enjoy today...'

...skrtch, skrtch, skrtch, skrtch...

...but it was very surprising that he was made Captain of the Eighth Division of the Royal Guard after only five years of joining.

Really, it's not like he did anything special.

'After all, We are...'

'...completely average and...'

Totally normal.

Besides, there were seven other captains with much more impressive records and accomplishments than himself.

'Eight others. Don't forget about the Zero Division!'

'That is nothing more than an urban myth passed around in the barracks by bored soldiers.'

'It makes sense-'

'It does not.'

'-that the Princess would have her own super special elite group though!'

'We, that is, the Royal Guard, are the 'super special' elite group under Her royal purview. Besides, what on Earth could be so important that she would need to have an entire division dedicated to it?'

~Equestrian Elegy~

Hidden amongst the rafters of a well-kept barn, a pink fluffy pony with a black mask that concealed most of her face, except for her eyes, spied upon her target. With a pair of binoculars in hoof, it only took a few moments before her enhanced gaze settled on a small filly. The filly in question had an orange coat with a blonde manecut that was styled in the form of two long pigtails bound in red ribbons. Her Cutie Mark was a trio of red apples stamped proudly on both of her flanks.

Currently the small orange pony had a concentrated and adorable scowl on her face as she bucked against a tree that was heavily laden with delicious looking apples. Though the filly's bucks were strong, very few apples fell out of the tree until she re-adjusted herself. Her next attempt was met with a much greater degree of success as evident by her smile that was elicited by dozens of apples falling into the baskets situated below the tree with satisfying 'plops'.

Thppptbhhhh.” The voyeuristic fluffy pony blew a muffled raspberry in satisfaction that one of her charges was okay for the moment and checked off a box on a clipboard that she had pulled out of her fur.

Creak...

Suddenly the barn door below the pony opened and a dark red stallion, that looked as if he was just coming out of colthood, trotted into the barn. The crimson stallion trotted into the barn and stared curiously at the shadow on the ground that was overlapping the plow he was moving towards.

He looked up and met the unwavering blue eyes of the fluffy pink pony.

“...”

“...”

“...Thbbthph.”

“Nnnope.” Wanting absolutely nothing to do with the current situation, the stallion grabbed the plow with his teeth and left the barn, resolutely closing the door behind him.

~Equestrian Elegy~

This series of a loving family, drop-dead gorgeous marefriend and his own somewhat impressive achievements certainly helped to bolster Shining's own confidence and courage.

Skrtch, skrtch, skrtch, skrtch

However, this same confidence and courage seemed to quickly evaporate when he was in front of the Head Captain's desk.

'Don't show fear! Mares can smell fear!'

'Fact.'

Faust knows that both Cadance and his mother were easily able to tell when he was hiding an injury. Hopefully Twily wouldn't awaken to that particular feminine gift anytime soon.

The Head Captain of the Royal Guard, Rouge Blossom, was many things. She was a prodigious healer who had an extensive understanding of the anatomy and physiology of several different species – not just ponies – and often spent her free time helping out in the Emergency department of Canterlot General. Captain Rouge was easily the strongest fighter of the Royal Guard, beating out her own son – Captain Iron Zest of the Fifth Division, who was a monster in his own right – despite being a rather slender off-white pegasus.

She was a quiet and thoughtful individual that Shining Armor and practically everyone else in the Guard truly respected from the bottom of their hearts. Captain Rouge protected the soldiers under her command from such things as arrogant nobles seeking to abuse their authority or small gestures such as making sure that various guards were not kept from their friends and family for too long.

Skrtch, skrtch, skrtch, skrtch.

Captain Rouge set aside her pen and gently moved the completed form to the top of a small pile situated at the corner of her desk, folded her hooves and smiled at Shining Armor.

The room dropped several degrees in temperature as Green Shoots curled up on herself into a barely audible whimpering pony-ball while the knocked out earth pony stallion encased in an 'Isolation Bubble', suddenly appeared to be locked in the throes of a nightmare.

'She's also more terrifying than the foulest demons of Tartarus.'

'Fact.'

Right. That too.

In the back of the minds of most of the Royal Guard, carefully locked away and thoroughly repressed, was a certain incident involving a group of four thieves who had managed to sneak past the Guard and break into the castle vault. Supposedly the first thing they saw instead of the hordes of bits and rare magical artifacts was Captain Rouge calmly sipping on a cup of freshly brewed tea with four empty teacups in front of her.

'We can still hear their screams...'

'Stop thinking! Put it back in the box!'

Three of them were still in prison serving a twenty year sentence.

The fourth, who was the leader, now lived in a padded room at the Canterlot Home for Mental Wellness.

“Captain Armor.” It was the first words she had spoken since Shining and his two captives had entered the office twenty minutes ago.

“Reporting in, ma'am!” Shining somehow managed to repress the stutter that so badly wanted to escape his mouth. He tried to force his spine into an even more rigid form as she raised one elegant eyebrow in response and tacitly prompted him to continue.

'Start at the Bank and include the time of the incident. We have the timestamp here...'

“At approximately twenty five minutes past noon, a group of three ponies led by Green Shoots here, attempted to rob the Bastion Street branch of the Equestrian National Bank.” Shining indicated the earth pony next to him who trembled violently when she felt the weight of Captain Rouge's gaze on her before it was lifted and returned to Shining Armor.

'No casualties. Mention Our method of capture and lead into the interrogation of the suspects.'

“No civilians were injured in the time they made their entrance through the front door and before I subdued the three of them in a containment bubble. I then conducted a brief interrogation of the three, with a focus on Ms. Shoots in particular-”

Green made a squeaking sound from her still cowering position and Shining could have sworn he saw Captain Rouge's lips slightly turn up in a ghost of a smirk.

'Yeesh, We really ARE more tired than We thought.'

'Visual hallucinations are not uncommon with sleep deprivation.'

Soldiering on, Shining continued: “-which led to the discovery that the so-called 'heist' was one of several illicit activities being conducted within the city to serve as a distraction for a much larger smuggling operation dealing in narcotics and volatile magical armaments.”

“Volatile? What Class were they?” interrupted the Captain.

'Thirty-seven Class One Artifacts. Seventy-two crates of assorted illicit drugs.'

“Thirty-seven Class One Artifacts, which included melee weaponry geared for both quadrupedal and bipedal use with military grade enchantments of sharpness and durability. The narcotics were in much larger and varied amounts and appeared to be the 'main draw' of the auction, as it were. Dozens of crates were packed full of these drugs, discovered by my Third and Fourth Seats.”

“Wellspring and Everglade, correct?”

“Yes ma'am. Good ponies and very thorough investigators.” assured Shining emphatically, unable to keep the faint sense of pride out of his voice.

Captain Rouge chuckled a bit and asked, “And the narcotics?”

'Bucking Amore...'

Any sense of happiness in his subordinates' abilities were wiped away at the memory of the primary drug that was being sold at the auction. “Some high-end euphorics such as Zebrican maufi and Spirit Nectar. The main draw was...”

Correctly interpreting the reason for Shining's displeasure, Captain Rouge finished the sentence for him: “Alicorn Dust, correct? Captain?”

Shining took a deep breath and slowly exhaled to calm the anger boiling inside of him, “...Yes, ma'am.”

Alicorn Dust, also known as Amore, was the hot new drug to appear within the world in the last ten years. It was a powerful stimulant that functioned similarly to an aphrodisiac, yet it enhanced everything that would be associated within a romantic relationship. People who took the drug acted with a partner, or someone who they had amorous leanings towards, as if it was Hearts and Hooves day; pouring everything they had into making a relationship successful and not solely towards satisfying lustful urges.

Amore also acted as a potent magical enhancer, instilling a feeling of power and significantly boosting a person's abilities; thankfully without a berserker state. This enhancement somehow translated into a mutual sympathetic effect on the recipient of the user's affections, but without the side-effects and at a reduced level. It was highly addictive and only showed signs of tolerance within minotaurs and dragons, who were forced to take larger and larger amounts of the drug to achieve the same effect.

Though in recent years, newer iterations of the drug have shown their creator to have been improving their formula and decreasing how fast minotaurs and dragons adapted to it, leading to a new surge in popularity in their populations.

'Nothing says fun like a suped-up Dragon...'

The most dangerous aspect of the drug, however, was that once it wore off, people became extremely flat in their affect and would have great difficulties in expressing their emotions without it's usage. Chronic usage would also inevitably lead to a person just...burning out like a candle. Their magic would be permanently crippled and they would no longer be drawn into Heartsongs, even by those closest to them.

Dust users would go through the motions of life without feeling...becoming husks of their former selves, never to return any semblance of vivacity they once possessed. While most ponies were appropriately horrified by the drug's effects, some chose to use it for the power it promised or the potential fulfillment of a romantic relationship.

Shining had known ponies who had taken the drug and he had very luckily managed to catch them in time before they had ruined themselves forever.

'Poindexter...'

'Just the icing on the toilet cake that the street name for the bucking thing is named after Cadance!'

Throughout it's career as a street drug, no political body or agency has ever found out who was creating the drug and supplying it. Drug raids had been carried out before and their orchestrators questioned with zero success – all those who would have been promising leads had had their memories tampered with. Some of the best lamia mind mages in the world had worked on the problem and found their own skills wanting.

They were always one step behind.

Even the raid conducted today and the people Shining and his ponies had captured didn't leave him with much confidence that they'd find much.

'Or what We'd managed to save anyway.'

'Our friends are safe. That's the only kind of win that matters.'

Captain Rouge was kind enough to let Shining calm down before she gestured for him to continue on with his report.

'...follow up with the location of the Auction.'

'Don't forget about Minty getting us those permits!'

“The Auction was being conducted within an old warehouse on the eastern side of the city. One of the soldiers from the Second Division got the building permits and tracked their owners down to a bloc of merchants who were using it for storage of excess goods – primarily spices, some of it local and some imported from other countries.” Shining Armor paused in his report and briefly considered his words, something that Captain Rouge easily picked up on as she held up a hoof for him to stop talking.

“Clear?” The soft voice of Captain Rouge was immediately answered by a gentle, but firm tone.

“Yes, ma'am?” Lieutenant Clear Aspirant, Rouge's second-in-command of the First Division, was just behind Shining at the threshold of the room based on the location of her voice.

'We ain't dumb enough to look away from the Head!'

“Please take Captain Armor's captives to Interrogation Room C and assist in the questioning. Bring me a report before the end of the day.”

“Understood, ma'am.” Shining felt a horn charging up with power behind him and then the sound of the lieutenant clearing her throat, “Captain Armor...would you please dismantle your containment spell?”

“Well, Lieutenant I-” began Shining as he gave a significant look to Captain Rouge who narrowed her eyes briefly before nodding.

“Actually, Clear, please take Ms. Shoots with you and begin the questioning. As it stands, I believe Mister...” she trailed off leadingly, looking towards the silver-furred earth pony laying unconscious within Shining's Isolation Bubble.

“Sterling. Oval Sterling.” supplied Shining.

“Mr. Sterling is indisposed at the moment anyway.” finished off Captain Rouge as she looked past Shining and at her lieutenant, trading some form of silent communication between them.

“Yes, ma'am. Ms. Shoots? If you would please come with me?” The gentle order surprised Green Shoots who looked nervously between Shining and Captain Rouge for permission. Captain Rouge nodded once at her and Shining gave her a thankful smile, causing the dark green mare let out a shaky sigh of relief and trot meekly out of the office.

“Alright, Captain. Out with it.” ordered Captain Rouge brusquely.

Shining gulped and nodded, “There is another matter, ma'am. One that I'd like a bit more privacy for with your permission.”

Her eyes narrowed but she acquiesced quickly at the serious undertone in his voice. The Captain slid a hoof under her desk that caused a sunny yellow crackle of magic to leap out of the fine wood grain and quickly expand out to encase the room in a field of power, before seemingly winking out of existence. Shining's horn tingled with the telltale signs of power in the air that indicated the privacy ward was still up and running.

He tapped the bubble around Sterling and made a small adjustment to it so that no sound would pass through before proceeding onwards to an increasingly concerned-looking Captain Rouge.

“The pony conducting the Auction was...apparently one Oval Sterling.”

“'Apparently'?” Captain Rouge's eyes sharpened and ordered in a clipped tone, “Elaborate, Captain.”

'I mean...it's possible We could have imagined things.'

'But...We cannot be one hundred percent certain that We did not.'

“Well, ma'am, this is what I saw...”

~Equestrian Elegy~

A few hours ago...

Shining Armor had only ever seen a few minotaurs in his life, but he had to admit that the dark brown biped was the burliest one by far. Standing menacingly outside of the large double doors that marked the front of the dingy looking warehouse, the minotaur would have been an extremely effective deterrent to any curious civilians. The location of the building was in a rather remote area of the city and the warehouse itself didn't look much different to the other several dozen that occupied the region apart from it's smaller size.

While Shining wasn't worried about his chances of beating the guard, this was meant to be a stealthy operation. Minotaurs had the lowest percentage of magic users amongst the sapient races inhabiting Earth. But what they lacked in spellcasting, the the world had granted the race blessings of regeneration and brute strength to a degree that there were several minotaur warriors that could give the Royal Guard Captains a run for their bits.

Well.

Perhaps not Captain Iron.

'Definitely not Captain Rouge, either.'

'Considering his former position, Captain Goldenheart would likely have no trouble either.'

'Captain Sharp would be able to take them easily with that massive stick shoved up his-'

'-Regardless! ...All of the other Captains have years of experience that would allow this operation to be conducted with a near one hundred percent chance of success.'

Even Captain Candy would do better than him.

'Unfortunately.'

'Stupid know-it-all...'

So what if he knows a little more magic than everypony else and that he can teach Twily just a tiny bit better than Shining himself could when the Princess wasn't available.

'We're sure that we could easily do this – better than that stupid Bucket Head even!...If...We weren't the new guy.'

It had only been two months ago since Shining was promoted from his former position of Lieutenant to Captain of the entire squad. While he certainly wouldn't show it in front of the others, he still felt a little uneasy with his new command.

“This is going to suck if they have a sensor on lookout.” muttered Everglade.

“No doubt. But it's not like there's a whole lot of cover between us and the warehouse. They'll see us coming from pretty much any direction. Teleporting is the only way to go.” replied Locus Wellspring.

'No time for wallowing though. We are the Captain of the Eighth Division.'

'Right. We can just cry about it to Cadance later when she gets back from Manehattan like We usually do.'

'We do not cry!'

'...Riiiight.'

'...We simply get a tad overemotional every now and then in the company of Our very understanding and sympathetic marefriend.'

...It was not the first time that Shining was glad that nopony present here could hear his inner thoughts.

“As long as we get the griffins and pegasi on the roofs, we should be fine. Minotaurs are more likely to face a threat head on, rather than call for help.” assured Shining. From his concealed position, he could see the four winged guards that were scanning the skies also turned their sights to the ground every now and then.

'This would be SO much easier if We could just Isolate the entire area.'

'Undoubtedly. But without knowing what kinds of goods are being dealt and how many, an explosive detonation of Our spell from the usage of unknown armaments would be rather...deadly.'

'We could always just direct the force upwards.'

'While that would protect everyone on the outside...'

'Yeah, yeah. We know. It wasn't a serious suggestion, anyway.'

“Besides, I'm sure the talented members of the Second Division will be able to get us in position without anyone detecting us.” Shining glanced over at the armoured forms of the ponies he had wrangled for this operation. By the time he had gotten the info out of Green Shoots and her associates, the so-called 'Dark Auction' was already underway.

The Princess had taken Twily out for the day for a lesson that needed more room than what the city could provide and the two Captains of the four stationed within the city (including himself) went with the pair. Captain Rouge was needed at the castle just in case anyone was dumb enough to break in with her standing guard, which was entirely possible with newer and woefully ignorant criminals.

This left Shining having to quickly gather any free Guards he could on the way that weren't dealing with the other distractions in Canterlot and send messages to Captain Rouge and his lieutenant in the castle to inform them about these developments. Luckily, the ponies he gathered included a strong amount of his own division, two from the Third and six from the tricky Second.

One of the Unseated members of the Second looked at Shining with a faint blush on his cheeks, “Thank you, Captain. We won't let you down.”

“I know you won't.” said Shining with full confidence, turning in place so he could catch each of the assembled ponies' eyes, “I know none of you will. Because we're the Royal Guard and we will protect this nation!”

While none of them cheered ('As that would kind of ruin the stealthy approach...' 'Shh!' 'Oh come on! Out of everypony here, We don't need to be quiet!' 'SHHH!'), their eyes gained a steely glint of determination in them and gave firm nods to Shining. The faint glow surrounding the horn of the Second's eighth seat – a mint green unicorn by the name of, funnily enough, Minty Fresh – briefly had a slight increase in it's illumination before it faded to an almost unnoticeable shimmer.

“I...believe I am as ready as I will ever be, Captain.” said Minty through gritted teeth and closed eyes, as she suppressed as much mana as possible while preparing a rather specialized variant of the Harmonic Convergence spell.

“Sixty seconds, ponies. Locus, start counting down.” ordered Shining as he trotted up to Minty.

'Sixty.'

Everglade, Shining and a pony by the name of Ground Springs – an Unseated earth pony from the Third, but the most experienced of the Unseated guards that Shining had managed to collect – stepped up right next to her as Minty's eyes opened to reveal two glowing orbs of power.

'Fifty nein!'

Fwoosh!

There was a disconcerting sensation as Shining felt every part of his body being gently tugged in completely different directions and an odd giddiness that briefly blossomed into being. He blinked once as he took in his new position just behind a tawny male griffin with Minty by his side sizing up her own blue pegasus target. Shining noted with silent approval that Everglade and Ground were in position on the other end of the roof behind a ebony colored pegasus and a brown griffin with a spotted coat.

'Fifty-six.'

The griffin suddenly stiffened and was about to turn around when Shining and Minty surged forward. Shining leapt onto the griffin's back and clamped his hooves around his neck in one smooth motion. The sudden and unexpected addition of Shining's weight brought the griffin down as Shining also clamped a wing with his hindlimbs to pin it in place.

'Fifty Three~!'

This afforded him a good view of the situation his raid members were in and he was rather smugly pleased that they had subdued their own targets without any issues. Shining grimly held onto the griffin as he continued to weakly struggle in vain to shake him off with the little amount of movement he could manage. All too soon, however, his struggles decreased in intensity; Shining never letting up on his grip until the griffin's eyes rolled backwards in their sockets.

'Forty-one.'

Both he and Minty held their targets for a few moments longer, making sure they were truly knocked out before releasing their holds. Shining gently lowered the griffin's slowly breathing form down onto the roof and watched as Minty did the same with her pegasus. Her limbs were trembling with the sudden burst of physical activity coupled onto the strain of her earlier casting, but Minty had assured Shining that Captain Violet had put her through more strenuous paces.

'Twenty niner! She'll be fine! Check on Ever and Ground now!'

Shining caught the eye of Everglade who silently signalled him that there were no issues on their end.

'Twenty-five.'

The enchantments embedded into his armor allowed Shining to trod silently over to the lip of the roof's edge and sneak a glance at the minotaur on the ground. Restricted as he was from using external spells, Shining instead relied on his innate Talent to protect and reinforce his plastered limb. It was a neat little trick that he had picked up when he had made the somewhat suicidal decision to spar with Captain Iron and one that he had mastered with repeat bouts.

'Definitely one of Our dumbest decisions...that somehow worked out great. We should do that more often!'

'Keep counting. Twenty.'

Shining's unique talent, combined with the bouts with an Earth pony like Iron Zest, allowed him to manipulate his mana in such a way that it was not released from his body like other unicorns. Instead, a purely conceptual spell focused on protection remained internalized and flowed through his body to bolster his natural defences to ludicrous levels. While he was still working out some of the kinks, Shining was able to reliably strengthen at least one part of his body in a fashion similar to Earth ponies.

'Well it's reliable most of the time. Anyhoo...Eighteen!'

Shining carefully gauged the distance between him and the minotaur lookout – 'Approximately twenty five feet below Us. Two rotational cycles can be completed to maximize impact within imposed limits.' – and took a deep breath to stabilize himself before...

'Fifteen! Finally! Let's go, go, GO!'

...hopping lightly off the roof, somersaulting twice in the air to increase his velocity as much as he dared to slam his casted forelimb onto the minotaur's unprotected cranium.

Crack!

“GURK!” choked out the minotaur, swaying drunkenly on the spot, but managing to impressively remain standing even with Shining hanging onto him by the horns.

Smack!

“GAH!” Shining quickly rained down another hammer blow with his impromptu cudgel, aiming to concuss the minotaur (if he wasn't already).

'Wow, this guy has got some pretty high bonuses to his CON saves!'

'Eleven. Also, minotaurs have advantage on saving throws versus Constitution.'

As the minotaur stumbled and his feet staggered into the direction of the street, Shining yanked hard on the horn he was holding onto into the opposite direction. The conflicting vectors and what was probably a very severe headache played hell with the minotaur's locomotive capabilities and sent him spiralling down to the ground.

'Eight seconds. Hmm...We should be good here. He's facing away from the street now.'

Some primitive combat instincts must have kicked in at that moment, for Shining's new “friend” somehow managed to catch himself from faceplanting onto the street. One massive fist slammed itself into the ground, slightly cratering the surrounding stone from where it impacted as the minotaur collapsed onto one knee.

'Five seconds remaining.'

The minotaur growled low and dangerously before letting loose a chuckle that dripped with malice, “Nice try, punk. But you should have brought your-”

His threat was cut off as he was tackled from behind by the rest of Shining's raid group who had come charging down, headed by Locus, and taken down their designated target. Still clutching his horns, Shining took the opportunity to slam his face down into the ground and further stagger the guard's senses. The minotaur was quickly ponypiled and gagged before he could let out any sort of warning now that he realized just how outnumbered he was.

A particularly bulky earth pony from the Second Division was working together with a mare from his squad to compress certain blood vessels on the minotaur's bulky neck. The minotaur shuddered as their hooves quickly pressed in six areas on both sides of the neck before his muscles relaxed and his eyes rolled backwards into his skull.

Finally, the smaller mare tapped a space on her armor in an intricate pattern that caused the magical plate to shift in place and reveal a hidden compartment. Her hoof disappeared into the expanded space and pulled out a set of shackles that she summarily slapped onto the minotaur. The metal vibrated slightly as it was opened and placed on the minotaur's wrist, before it started to expand and better fit the circumference of his wrist.

“Good work, everypony.” praised Shining. He was pleased to note that while this elicited smiles from the ones in earshot, they did not relax their guards. “You two,” he said, indicating the two ponies that had finished knocking out the minotaur, “Keep an eye on him. The rest of you will split into three groups and case either side of the building. Two groups of ground-pounders and another for our fliers who will go over the roof and relieve Everglade for a sitrep.”

Shining waited a scant few seconds as the ponies shuffled themselves into their assigned groups before he continued, “Check for side entrances, windows, anything that might be a point of entry. If you find anything of the sort or an area that warrants further investigation, send a pony back to me with details before anything else. Keep things quiet, quick and only use spellcraft if there's an absolute need for it. Move out.”

Quickly hopping to their work, the raid group split into three and began to canvass the sides of the building. A few seconds later, Shining spied Everglade gliding down from the roof and onto the ground in front of him.

“Anything interesting on the roof, Ever?” he asked without much hope.

The pegasus mare shook her head apologetically, “Nuthin' I could find while you were tussling with your new coltfriend.” Shining's lips twitched upwards as she continued, “There's another building pressed up against the backside of this place that looks as if it's in for some construction. Lot of the roof is missing and there's a bunch of scaffolding and some random power tools. Bunch of the other guards are checkin' the place out, but I didn't see anything move from above.”

Shining sighed, “Well it's possible there may be some hidden entrances. I want you back on the roof just in case we have any runners.”

Everglade looked displeased with the notion of not participating in the upcoming raid, but understood the value of not letting anyone get away. “Got it. Can I get another flyer up with me? Would help in case there's multiple runners.”

“I'll get you the two batponies from the Second when they come back. Split yourselves so you have overwatch in all cardinal directions.”

Royal Guard hierarchy dictated that guards would follow the lead of the highest ranked officer, unless told otherwise – 'Or when there's a certain cake-loving, face-stuffing mare on site, hehe.'

'[SMACK!]'

'OW!'

'Show some respect.'

'Fine. When there's a certain cake-loving, face-stuffing Princess on site.'

'Better.'

Odd potentially treasonous and/or blasphemous tangents aside, of the ponies in his raid group there were only four seated officers including: Himself, Everglade, Locus and Minty. While Shining had every bit of confidence in Ever's abilities, even in enclosed spaces, she would be better served coordinating overwatch efforts with magical support from Minty.

Shining and Everglade continued hashing out the details on her patrol patterns until a flier from his raid group, and a member of his squad no less, came soaring down to the two of them.

“Sir! No windows or side entrances were discovered on the western side of the warehouse. Nothing significant in the other building on initial inspection either.” began Soaring Heart. “Same with the eastern side along with the building behind the warehouse. Northern wall of the place is pressed up right against the back of the place. No doors though, concealed or otherwise that we could find. Officer Locus wanted to inspect the place a bit more though considering it's location.”

“It is an odd design choice...” mused Shining thoughtfully as he constructed a mental map of the area:

Shining mulled over the information briefly and gave his orders, “Relay this back to Locus: I want two ponies from the Eighth at his discretion to investigate the building, the two batponies from the Second to join Ever on the roof and everyone else to reconvene back here to join up with myself and enter the Warehouse.”

Soaring Heart gave a sharp nod, saluted and flew off to carry out Shining's orders who turned back to Everglade. “Best if you head on up to the roof now, Ever.”

She looked at him critically for a moment and then settled for a lazy wink, “Good luck, Shining. Try not to do anything too crazy, or we'll never hear the end of it from Cold.”

They both mock shuddered and shared a laugh before Everglade flapped her wings and returned to the roof as Shining turned his attention to the two Second division members who were guarding the downed minotaur.

“I'm going to ask the two of you to hang back and watch over our new friend here.” he began, giving a pointed stare to the minotaur, “Will you two be alright by yourselves?”

A confident grin bloomed on the muscular Earth pony stallion, “We may not be Seated officers, Sir, but our Lieutenant whipped us into pretty good shape.”

'Minotaurs should not be taken so lightly. Hmm...We should roll for Perception by the way.'

'Sixteen!'

Just as Shining was about to chastise the stallion about the dangers of overconfidence, he was beaten to the punch by the mare next to him.

Smack!

Literally.

“An extra unicorn would be appreciated, Captain Armor.” The grey earth pony's voice was soft, but rang clear in Shining's ears. She ignored the reproachful look from her companion with what looked like years of long practice. “Or, if you cannot spare an extra pony, I would like to volunteer my companion Umbral Bulk here who makes quite an excellent meatshield in exchange.”

'Hah! This mare's great!'

“Silent!” squawked Umbral in protest.

“What? It is one of your few outstanding features. Right next to your excellent oral hygeine.” asked the now-named Silent with what seemed to be genuine confusion.

Shining snorted at the odd exchange, stopping whatever retort Umbral may have had to Silent's assessment of him. “I can spare an extra unicorn for you two. And Umbral, I didn't mean to denigrate your abilities. It is just that minotaurs can be rather tough opponents and many ponies underestimate their regeneration speeds...”

As expected of Second Division members, the two guards quickly caught on to what Shining was hinting at. Though perhaps Umbral only caught on after he saw Shining's forelimb in motion rocketing towards the not-so-unconscious minotaur.

WHAP!

“Oh...come...on-!” the minotaur was once again summarily cut off as Shining sent him back into the realm of dreams with a single blow.

“...Although to be fair, this is definitely the fastest recovery speed I've seen from a minotaur.” Shining chuckled as another possibility came to him, “Or I'm not as strong as I thought.”

While he tried to play it off, Shining was a bit worried that he had hit the minotaur a bit too hard that time as he could see some bright-red blood decorating his cast.

'...He'll most likely be fine. Minotaurs are fairly robust.'

'Which means he can totally take another hit! Hit him again!'

'No, wait!'

WHAP!

“Mggrrrlll.” This was the best transcription that Shining could use to describe the odd strangled groan that poured out of the minotaur's throat.

Umbral and Silent were a bit wide-eyed at the sudden (and repeated) display of violence but admirably regained their composure a moment later. Shining noted with approval that Umbral was more on guard now that the minotaur's resilience had been demonstrated and hopefully took this lesson to heart.

'Woohoo! Another point for acting on Our impulses! Suck it, logic!'

'Was that REALLY necessary?'

'Ehhh...probably? He might be locked up, but that doesn't mean he can't break out. Better safe than sorry, right?'

“I'm not so sure we'll need that unicorn anymore...” muttered Silent looking between Shining and the insensate bovine.

“Ehehe. I've learned from personal experience that sometimes it's best to just double tap for people or creatures that can take a solid hit.” The bright reassuring grin that Shining flashed towards the pair seemed to make them more nervous for some odd reason.

...That was a tap...?

“Pardon?” Umbral said something in a very quiet voice that he couldn't quite make out.

“N-nothing, Captain Armor! Thank you for the advice!”

Shining gave him a slightly confused smile, “Anytime. So, you two, soon to be three, will be on duty for this minotaur. The ponies on the roof will be watching your six, so you don't have to worry about that. Though if any of the buyers in this Auction come out running, focus on them. If the minotaur gets away, it's not too big of a problem. Priority is on the buyers, not the hired help. Clear?”

““Yes sir!””

“Excellent.”

It was only a few moments later that Locus and most of the raid group returned which left twelve ponies, including Shining, that would be heading inside. A mixture of six unicorns, three pegasi and three earth ponies from all three Divisions present gave a decent amount of versatility to Shining. None of the ponies present had anything on hoof to grease the hinges of the door, so their entrance wouldn't be totally soundless. The best he could hope for was that nopony had heard any sounds of the scuffle outside of the warehouse.

'Not with Our luck.'

'Indeed.'

Still, they could not delay any longer. If there was a hidden exit that Locus and his team had not found, then it was entirely possible they could lose all of the major parties involved in this black market deal.

“Reverb. Willow.” The earth pony and unicorn of Division Eight that Shining had named, snapped to attention, “Be ready to open the doors on my command. Ease it open just in case the noise isn't too bad, otherwise, slam it open.”

'Shield wall should be a solid opener.'

'That assumes an enemy adopting a linear configuration. A warehouse such as this would likely have rows of shelves creating multiple potential avenues of attack. We have a team of twelve, so perhaps-'

“-We're going to divide ourselves into three groups of four ponies which will be known as R1, R2 and R3 respectively. Team leaders will be myself heading R1, Locus heading R2 and Willow Wizz heading R3.”

The ponies were quickly shuffled into their groups in which the final makeup of each platoon was comprised of one pegasus, one earth pony and two unicorns. It was possible that Shining could have chosen better leaders for each team, but on such short notice he had to rely on his experience with his own squad members.

The upcoming battle would tell if it was the correct decision or not.

'Even if this is not the optimal path, We-'

'-Will protect-!'

Everypony and everyone.

Shining and Locus formed two points of what would be an inverted triangle with their teams as Shining gave the signal for Willow and Reverb (who was part of R3) to get the door.

ScreeeEEEEEE!

'So much for the stealthy option!'

THUNK!

Evidently Shining needed to work on judging just how rusty door hinges were, as the sound that erupted from the squeaky doors as they were opened could have woken the dead. It certainly attracted the attention of the group of people at the end of a long row of shelves.

The group in question was quite easily the sketchiest and most diverse gathering of species that Shining had seen in his entire life. There were ponies, griffins, hippogriffs, goats, deer, zebras, a few lamias a minotaur and even a violet-scaled dragon whose massive frame towered over everyone within the building.

'None of them would look out of place in a police line-up...'

'Appearance is not evidence of guilt.'

'Really? Well it appears that a couple of these fine upstanding citizens are participating in a trade with, Ooh let's see, is that pony selling some Alicorn Dust? Weird! Well, We're sure that's just a bag of purple-colored sugar and this is just a motley crew of criminally underrated bakers!'

'...Sarcasm does not befit Us.'

At the front of this gathering and situated behind what appeared to be a ramshackle auctioneer's podium was a silver earth pony with a well-maintained dark brown mustache peppered with flecks of grey, who seemed just as caught off guard as the rest of his customers to Shining's secret satisfaction. In the auctioneer's hoof he held up a large plastic bag filled with a disgustingly familiar violet powdery substance. A large wooden crate by the pony's side was opened and appeared to be full of similar bags with Styrofoam peanuts littering the base of the box. When the stallion caught Shining's eye however, he was a little disconcerted to see alarm temporarily switch to a very brief flash of...

'Anypony else see his eyes just flash green real quick there?'

'That intense...hungry...stare is a bit more concerning than an eye color change.'

Shining marked it as something else to ask for later when they were all in chains.

'Yeah! Time to be a Captain! Let's open with a super sarcastic opening!'

'Indeed, We shall start this in a manner befitting of a – Wait, what was that last part?'

'Sweet Faust, We're actually in agreement for once! Hahaha! Yes! All aboard for the Sarcasm Ship! Whoop! Whoop!'

'We will most certainly NOT be boarding that ship-!'

“Sorry to interrupt this obviously very legal exchange of illegal goods and weapons, everyone.” began Shining with mock cheerfulness ('Nice!'), “But as a Royal Guard of Equestria, I am going to have to ask all of you to submit yourselves peacefully for questioning.”

Waving a hoof to Locus, the two of them and their groups started to slowly walk forwards with Willow and R3 hanging back for now.

“Oh really?” drawled one of the lamias sensuously, her lower snake half raising her higher above most of the crowd, “From what I can tell, we outnumber you five to one.”

The lamia slithered out between her compatriots revealing a large, toned crimson-scaled serpentine body. The scales on the lamia's lower body were comprised of differing intensities of red that formed a pattern resembling that of a demonically grinning maw. Her violet eyes flashed with a mischievous light and Shining felt a featherlight pressure on his skull coinciding with a seductive voice that slipped out from the lamia's smiling lips.

“Now, why don't you be good little hatchlings and forget about seeing anything here and go on your way.

'Mental probe incoming.'

'Ugh. Mind magic sucks. Stupid lamias.'

'Careful. She's not very powerful, but some of her mana has already slipped in. A negligible amount to be sure, but-'

'Oh, gross! Get the buck out of Our meat palace!'

'...Meat palace? Really?'

'AND STAY OUT! Also,what's wrong with calling Our brain a palace? We're part of the Royal Guard! Emphasis and underline on Royal! Our digs should definitely be something equally ritzy~ '

'Ugh.'

“I-Impossible!” choked out the lamia with wide eyes.

Shining took some satisfaction in the way the lamia reeled backwards in shock as her mental probe was destroyed. Her concentration broken, the tentative holds she had on the other guards were similarly broken as they shook themselves back into lucidity.

“There are quite a few Guards outside as well, Miss. So I think it'd be better for you all to-”

In his peripheral vision, Shining saw bright orange flames lick the side of the dragon's maw which opened and disgorged an enormous fireball straight towards Shining and his friends in the span of a heartbeat. A blinding light and skyrocketing temperature occupied nearly all of Shining's senses as mana surged within his body faster than he could ever recall.

''SHIELD!/SHIELD!''

BOOM!

KRSHHHH!

A translucent, colorless shield was barely brought up in time to meet the horrifically strong fireball and wavered dangerously close to shattering when it was hit. The impact deafened Shining and his ponies at ground zero and the left over concussive force that his shield partially redirected, knocked over the row of shelves to Shining's right with a resounding crash.

“Phew.” muttered Shining, thankful that his shield held up to the blast.

Dragonfire had the rather terrifying property of burning through both mundane and magical defences. In this regard, the Royal Guard was rather fortunate – 'Or unfortunate, depending on who you asked...' – that Captain Zest's wife was so...enthusiastic in helping out her husband's coworkers. The only good thing about the dragon's attack was that the blast had created a convenient cloud of smoke that obscured he and his unharmed squad from view of the now bickering crooks.

“ARE YOU INSANE, NYXERION?! YOU COULD HAVE IGNITED THE DUST IN THESE CRATES AND KILLED US ALL WITH THAT STUNT!”

Within the smoke, any poor visibility was significantly mitigated by their helmets. As such, Shining was able to convey a series of hoof signals to the pegasi in R1 and R2 to slowly start spreading out the smoke in a more favorable position. Willow and R3 were stealthily approaching from behind and Shining signaled for her to wait.

“Yet I didn't.” callously rumbled what was probably the dragon. It was hard to tell who was who with all this smoke. “All this hiding, bribing and...sneaking around business is beneath a dragon such as myself.”

Sheesh. Talk about an ego.

'Right?!'

Though that bit about bribery would be something good to follow up on later. The smoke was dispersing on either side of them and into the two rows adjacent to the one Shining, R1 and R2 were at the entrance of. R3 was directed into the row on Shining's left and told to wait for his signal as he communicated the plan of attack to Locus.

“Only the Sun Goddess would be a worthy opponent. Not her shiny little pets or her so-called 'Dragonkin'.” sneered Nyxerion.

'Does...does he actually think he got Us? Or that he'd even stand a chance against the Princess? Also, clearly he hasn't even met Zesty, sheesh.'

'Thank Faust,that Spike won't grow up to be such a dimwitted moron.'

Not looking particularly pleased that Shining would be leading the assault, Locus nonetheless acquiesced to his orders with a single sharp nod.

“To hell with the guards, where did that slimy Sterling run off to?!” interjected another voice in the growing din of voices.

It was as good a distraction as any as Shining swept his right hoof sharply down and the pegasi behind him blasted the fog in their row forwards with Shining charging within it's midst. He felt the telltale flare of mana as the unicorns behind him projected shields just in case any of the crooks fired blindly down the row.

The lamia who attempted to penetrate his mind was halfway to turning around with wide eyes as she caught sight of Shining. Smirking, Shining lit her up with a powerful concussive blast that blasted her off her tail and rocketed her into the crowd of crooks behind her.

An orange glow lit up the smoke and framed a draconic silhouette, giving Shining an excellent target to encase in his strongest barrier, with a slight modification, around as a second blast was fired off.

THWOOOMP!

“RAAAGGGGHHHH!!!” Nyxerion roared in impotent fury as his flames ate through the shield, but ultimately failed to penetrate through to Shining's great relief.

'Seems like he ain't too happy with us!'

'Indeed. We should call for the first two teams now.'

“R1 AND R2! FIVE REVERSE STAGGERED CHARGE!” shouted Shining with a magically amplified voice. Unseated or not, Shining made sure to train all ninety-nine ponies of his squad very thoroughly in strategies and physical training. In this case, R2 would head out immediately into the fray followed by R1 five seconds later.

'We can give 'em a bit of help on our way though!'

Shining grinned as he started to blast the toughest looking targets with stunners and sedation spells on his way to Nyxerion who continued to pour out swelteringly hot flames out of his gullet to batter down Shining's shield.

'With astoundingly little success.'

Shining doubted he would break out of the shield, but in the off chance that he did, Shining wanted to make sure Nyxerion's attention was solely focused on him and not his raid group.

A griffin with heavy facial scars took a vicious swipe at Shining as he weaved through the stumbling crowd. Shining smoothly ducked at the last second and briefly slowed down to deliver a powerful buck to the griffin's side, cracking her ribs with the impact.

'Our shield didn't even lose to Tia! It ain't gonna fall to some no-namer like this scrub!'

“You little bastard!” screeched a second lamia with black scales and dusky skin, as she attempted to slam her muscular tail down onto Shining's skull.

'One wonders if that moron even realizes that Our Bubble is oxygen proof and that his own attempts to break out will soon be his undoing.'

Shining rolled out of the way, sprang up to his hooves and charged up a concussive blast at the Lamia's midsection.

“Locus! Hang her up!” His Third Seat looked up after taking down leather-clad goat with three quick Stunners and nodded.

Stay still WORM!” The lamia's cerise eyes glowed ominously as she deployed her magic.

'Wow. She sucks. Also, to be fair to Nyxy-'

'Nyxy? Get set for calling out R3 after this.'

Shining fired off his prepped spell and sent the howling lamia on a corkscrew path that bowled over a charging doe and was intercepted by Locus who arrested her velocity by clotheslining her neck with an outstretched forelimb.

“GAH!” The lamia choked out with spittle foaming at the edge of her lips as Locus summarily dropped her to the ground.

'-We never would have been able to pretty much reflexively cast that without practising with Tia. We should definitely get her some nice sapphires as a present after this.'

“R3!” Shining roared out for the third group to join the fray now that most of the criminals were focused on the row where R1 and R2 had emerged from. He also conjured several quick shields to section off the crooks so as to make them unable to exploit their number advantage.

'...Captain Iron will most likely use the opportunity to...request...a spar from Us however.'

Thus they were taken completely off-guard when Willow Wizz and her group came from an adjacent row. Shining noted with approval that Willow was keeping R3 together to take down targets as a team as he absently batted aside a glowing dagger with a hoof.

'Not if We bring Cadance along!'

“Pretty quick there, brat! But to match mighty Zafir, you'll have to do better than tha-URK!”

Shining cut off the zebra's rhyme with a cross chop to his cheek while wrenching Zafir's knife-holding hoof down into the ground with a telekinetic hold. He frowned as the blade of the enchanted knife smoothly pierced the concrete and sank up to it's hilt, before taking it out of the equation by snapping off the blade at the hilt which caused the glow to fade.

Zafir stared at the rather fragile knife with dull eyes from his position on the ground, “I thought this knife was practically a steal, but it seems obvious that I have made a terrible deal.”

'...That is a surprisingly sound plan considering how well she gets along with Cherry and Lady Tiamat.'

Shining scanned the battlefield and was happy to see that the Guards were tidily mopping up the criminals without much fuss. He continued to help out by throwing up shields every now and then and boxing in the weaker-looking mooks.

No one but him would be getting hurt on his watch if he had anything to say about it.

'Our plans are amazing!'

'Even a broken clock is right twice a day.'

'HEY!'

“That's what ya get for being cheap, Zafir!” laughed a new voice. A paunchy minotaur with a rather menacing looking battleaxe was running towards the pair. Shining was privately relieved that he wasn't nearly as bulky as his compatriot outside and hopefully wouldn't take much time subduing.

The almost certainly enchanted battleaxe introduced an element of uncertainty in the upcoming battle. Thus, Shining sought to remove this variable in the simplest manner possible as the minotaur flung his shiny toy back in a telegraphed downward strike.

This was achieved by firing off what was considered a 'Party Trick' spell and greasing the minotaur's palms.

Fwip!

““Eh?”” Zafir and his bovine acquaintance both made similar noises of confusion as the axe slipped out of the minotaur's slick and shiny hands and bounced off the shield-encased Nyxerion with a dull thud before clattering noisily to the ground.

Shining took a mighty leap off the ground that took him face to face with the taller minotaur and which would have carried him slightly over the bull had he not hooked his rearlimbs around his neck. Using his neck as pivot point, Shining rapidly spun around the bull with such a high velocity that he brought the minotaur crashing to the ground with Shining poised right above his skull with two hooves to send him to dreamland.

'Ah, We can do better than that!'

'A particularly showy display might convince the rest to lay down peacefully without further violence.'

'How's the dragon?'

Shining chanced a glance at Nyxerion who was definitely slowing down and panting as he tried to batter down the Bubble. He had stopped blasting fire on it and was now making use of his powerful draconic body to shatter Shining's shield with brute force.

'Roll for Performance.'

Shining gave him a mocking wave and cheeky smirk to accompany it, though Nyxerion didn't really seem to notice in his dogged attempts to break out.

'A seven?! Come on!'

'Well they can't all be natural twenties.'

'Let's...just focus on the minotaur.'

Silently apologizing to the dazed minotaur for what he was about to do, Shining conjured flashy, but ultimately useless and meaningless circular sigils around him as he started to reinforce his body. The dazzling display caught the eye of several crooks who had then been taken down in their moment of distraction.

“I'll try not to hit you too hard, but you might want to brace yourself regardless.” advised Shining sincerely to the minotaur.

“W-wait, l-let's talk about this-!” began his target fearfully.

'Reinforcement ready. Be advised, We only have ten seconds before Our body begins to break down because of the drain on maintaining the Bubble.'

'Freakin' dragons...Also, We should probably let the others know what We're going to do.'

'Another sensible idea...truly remarkable.'

Ignoring his Inner Voices' banter with the ease of long practice and a concealed grin ('Hey!'), Shining very briefly commanded his sigils to flash in a coded pattern.

'PLAY – ALONG.'

Without further ado, Shining's left hoof came down onto the prone minotaur's face, impacting his cheek hard enough to bruise, but not enough to break bone. His right hoof joined the fray as he pulled his left hoof back, making sure that it touched one of the sigils behind him as he punched the minotaur with slightly more speed.

Two blows.

'Analyzing regeneration speed.'

Four blows.

'Estimating endurance levels.'

Eight blows.

'Comparing to guard outside and referencing notable mentions in Minotaur warrior caste. Adjusting force accordingly.'

Sixteen.

'Conclusion:'

Thirty-two.

'This won't be permanent.'

Sixty-four.

The magic in Shining's body poured throughout him as his punches came faster and faster, all the while he mentally directed the sigils to give off more and more light, blinding his 'audience'. Only one out of every four blows landed on the minotaur and for those he made absolutely sure to pull his punches. The rest Shining expertly timed ('A trivial matter.') with particularly bright flashes of light from the sigils upon which he directed his blows to the concrete.

Through it all, Shining kept a blank face, even as the minotaur's nose broke in a particularly messy manner and a spout of blood sprayed up and coated his muzzle. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that many of the crooks watching the 'fight' were trembling as he reeled back his right hoof for one final blow.

“You should have come quietly.” he stated to the battered minotaur who looked much worse than he really was.

BOOM!

His hoof came crashing down even as he obscured the area with another bright flash of light and shifted his blow at the last moment to the ground, fracturing it for several feet around. Chunks of concrete were ripped from the floor as the kinetic energy of Shining's punch raced through it and caused all who were on the ground to feel as if the very earth was quaking for a brief moment.

It was a fortuitous bit of timing that, as he dismounted from his last opponent, that Nyxerion had used up all of the oxygen remaining in his body and slumped to the ground. The sounds of struggle had stopped and the battle came to a halt as he dispersed of the sigils that expanded slightly and burst into colorful motes of pink mana that sent more than a few flinches throughout the crowd.

'Well we're never going to get a better chance to end this without anyone else getting hurt. Roll for Intimidation with Advantage.'

'Uh...thirteen and...HAHAHAHA! NATURAL TWENTY, BABY! WOOOOOOOO!'

Shining glared out at the remaining criminals who were standing with open mouths (and for some reason, a few of his fellow Guards were looking a bit scared) and once again ordered:

“Surrender.”

Clang! Clang! Thunk! Thump!

All around, the criminals who were still up and weren't otherwise subdued by Shining's raid group started dropping their weapons one after the other and submissively laying prone on the ground. The guards started to lock up the criminals one after another, starting with the ones who looked like they would be capable of teleporting who were outfitted with more specialized cold iron manacles and rings. Shining's eyes flickered over the group when something caught his attention.

“Did anypony get the auctioneer?” asked Shining with narrowed eyes, not seeing the silver Earth pony that had looked to be heading the auction. His frown deepened when he was met by increasing amounts of negative responses.

“T-there's an office at the back!” stammered a weedy-looking deer sporting numerous bruises over his face.

'Might be where a back exit is.'

“Don't you say another word, you little-!” began another tougher-looking doe.

'Criminals tend to know their own den the best after all. It would be strange if he did not have an exit strategy.'

'Speaking of exit strategies, it's kinda weird that none of the magic users tried teleporting out. Then again, they probably didn't want to leave behind all their shiny new purchases.'

'Arrogance and underestimating the Royal Guard is another likely reason. Had they a full understanding of our abilities, they would have likely fled at the first chance they got.'

“Shut up.” Shining cut off the doe gently, who stopped talking immediately when she met his dispassionate gaze. He turned to the deer who had spoke up with a slightly warmer look. “Continue.”

With a nervous glance to the frozen doe beside him, the deer began again, “There...there's an office in the back of this place on the right s-side. B-behind a bu-bunch of crates. I s-saw Oval take off to there...”

“Locus, you're in charge of these people, I'm checking out the office!” Shining called out behind him as he got the needed information.

While still maintaining the barrier around the dragon, as it hadn't yet been ten minutes since he had fallen unconscious, Shining warmed up a speed-boosting spell on himself and had enough leftover mental fortitude (and training) to layer it.

'Accelero Triple.'

Due to the gravitational nature of the spell, Shining had to adjust his galloping posture so as to not waste the magic's effects into excessive vertical momentum. As a result, he was much lower to the ground than normal and was hooking his hoof around whatever he could find to give him an extra boost. This all served to propel him at a blindingly fast pace, one that neared Reinforcement levels, across the warehouse interior.

'Wheeeee!'

'Focus. Save the whooping for when we're with Twily.'

His destination became clear and took the form of a large stand-alone unit with two large bay windows with the shutters drawn and a closed door that had smoke pouring out from the cracks. As his mind processed and quickly took in the scene, there was a dull roaring sound and a flash of green that briefly filtered out of the office.

'Fire?'

'He might be getting rid of any evidence!'

Shining's eyes narrowed, and foregoing any semblance of stealth, ripped off the door from it's hinges with a powerful burst of telekinesis. The loss of the door unleashed the roiling cloud of smoke that was laying contained within the office as it came pouring out and spilling out into the warehouse. Shining's eyes widened briefly at the amount before focusing and banishing the smoke obstructing his view to an uninhabited part of the warehouse. Soon enough, his efforts were rewarded as the interior of the office cleared up and he was able to see what was going on inside.

“What on Earth...?” muttered Shining, he briefly assessed the office for any threats-

'Got a seventeen for Our Perception!'

'All clear.'

-before moving into the office to smother the fires on top of what was probably once a nice desk and hopefully salvage the documents that were being lit up. Through it all, he kept a wary eye on the unconscious form of the auctioneer, Oval Sterling, who lay prone on the ground in front of a thoroughly scorched and partially melted locker.

The only clue as to what may have lain inside of the destroyed locker was a ebony-colored chitinous substance ensconced within a corner of the locker that wasn't as badly burned as the rest. Shining only managed to see it because of the contrasting green...ichor that dripped from it. Tapping his armor to open up it's expanded compartment, Shining retrieved a small jar and bottled the substance for later analysis.

“Well...hopefully this wasn't a total loss.” he mumbled, holding the sealed jar up to eye level.

'Pffft. Yeah, right.'

~Equestrian Elegy~

Captain Rouge was silent for a few moments as she digested Shining Armor's story who finished off his report with one final additional piece of information. He had saved it for the last because the implications were very worrying.

'That. And it will undoubtedly infuriate the Head.'

'Understatement of the freakin' year.'

'Within a private alcove in the bank, as was loaned out to him by the very thankful manager. Shining quickly got to work on questioning his captives, loosening their lips by constricting their Bubble cages every few seconds they refused to talk.

Shining also offered the lifeline of reduced sentences and protection as well to coax any of the ponies into talking. Scared, but not of him, the trio traded significant looks with each other until Ms. Shoots hesitantly began talking about something she was definitely not supposed to hear. This was in return for a lighter sentence being placed on the two unicorns while she would get a heavier incarceration period.

“...And I knew me and my boys were being suckered. The amount they were paying us? Pah!” spat Green Shoots, “Nothing compared to what was probably the real money-maker. They were real secretive too, but I managed to overhear something with my plants.”

“Your Talent, I presume?” asked Shining.

She flashed Shining a mean grin, that quickly faded when her cage tightened a bit more. Green glared at Shining, which he returned with a cold smile.

“Bit harsh for a Royal Protector, aren't you?” she muttered.

“You scared my little sister's friend.” he shot back. “Stop stalling or our deal goes off the table.”

She licked her lips and nervously looked around the space they were tucked away in, searching for some hidden danger. Green Shoots voice dropped into a conspiratorial whisper, “Saw some guys who looked like bigwigs ordering around the guy who gave us our orders. I...keep some plant seeds on me. Got a special kind of vine that's a little hollow but good for carrying sound.”

Green licked her lips nervously, “Real tough-looking griffin and pony. Nice clothes too. Real nice. Real dangerous vibe too.” she smiled sadly at the two stallions with her, who Shining realized, had faces younger than their size would indicate.

“But I wasn't about to let that stop me from getting a good deal. So I had a vine grow and follow them. They didn't talk much, but...one of them, I think the griffin, mentioned that they had already been in town for a few days now and they still hadn't gotten the signal to start. Only other thing I got was where the 'Big Deal' is s'posed to go down...”

There was a lot of concerning information in her words, but Shining had to deal with the most prevalent situation at the moment and focus on finding and shutting down this operation.

“Where is this supposed to happen?”'

“...In addition, Shoots' testimony when I questioned her at the bank implied that this Auction had been ready to go for some days. The fact that events only started to kick off when the Princess and two Captains were out of the city is...” Shining didn't want to finish his sentence and it was clear that the Head Captain had understood all too well what he was leading towards.

That,” Shining held his breath as she fixed him with a deadly stare, “is a very serious implication you are making there, Captain.”

Shining swallowed nervously, but soldiered on through, “I know, Ma'am. I don't want to think that there's anypony who would-!”

'Calm down.'

'Yeah. We can scream about this later.'

His voice was steadily rising before he managed to reign himself under control, “But if there's any chance-”

He stopped at Captain Rouge's raised forehoof, “Captain...Shining. It's...well it is certainly not okay, but if there is a chance of a traitor within the palace or the Guard itself...”

Captain Rouge closed her eyes for a brief moment and rallied herself just as quickly with an almost palpable aura of determination, “This does not leave this room until I have had a chance to talk to the Princess later tonight. This Auction will be a significant setback for whatever parties were involved, but that means they'll also be spooked and that much more on guard. If either of us make any sudden moves or...inquiries...we might lose a chance of catching this potential leak.”

It was typical of the Head to predict that Shining would start his own investigation after getting confirmation of his ('Hopefully.') outlandish theory.

“What about Cadance?” he cut in, foregoing the use of her formal title in his worry.

“If you do not see her before I do for whatever reason, inform her. The last missive I received from Captain Goldenheart stated that she and her retinue would be due to return to Canterlot soon. But make sure to take all precautions when telling her and only her.”

“...Yes, ma'am.”

“The two of us, along with Princess Celestia and Princess Cadenza, will work together on...whatever is occurring here.”

“I will be participating as well, ma'am?” Shining was surprised at the task, considering he was still very much a rookie Captain.

Captain Rouge favored him a sly smile, “I think you underestimate yourself too much, Captain Armor.”

“Well...I feel it's better to be cautious and prepared rather than overconfident.”

Captain Rouge rolled her eyes, “A lesson that I wish my idiot son would learn.”

Shining couldn't stop the startled snort leaving his body, “To be fair to Captain Iron, he is a bit of an outlier in terms of strength.”

'Is there an Alicorn version of an Earth Pony?'

'We believe that in the latest O&O Creatures Vault, there was a Dire Earth Pony entry. That could fit.'

'So...like a regular earth pony, but more dire?'

'Precisely.'

Pay attention.

''Sorry./Sorry.''

“Anything else you would like to add to your report, Captain?”

“Only that Oval Sterling, based on Doctor Berry's assessment, is that physically Oval is a healthy enough stallion. However, despite multiple attempts, nopony has been able to rouse Mr. Sterling from his current...state.”

“How's his response to stimuli? Auditory, noxious or otherwise?” Captain Rouge was settling into her medical persona as she came out from behind the desk and peered at Oval. While her lab coat was long, it did not quite conceal the large burn scar on her flank where her Cutie Mark would be.

'Noxious stimuli?'

'Pain.'

“Minimal. A grimace was noted when Doctor Berry pressed on his sternum, but nothing vocal. That was the only response he managed to get.”

“Hmm...if you would lower your shield, Captain? And please levitate him for me. Make sure to keep his head and neck stable.”

Quickly complying with her orders, Shining watched with mild fascination as Captain Rouge smoothly transitioned into her role as an extremely accomplished healer. Gentle hooves poked and prodded the unresponsive Sterling as she personally assessed the pony's condition.

“I would definitely agree with Doctor Berry that he is physically okay. Though we'll only know for sure once we do some more detailed tests on him...” she frowned and looked at Oval's hooves thoughtfully before asking Shining, “Was it just his body that was looked over? Not his magical network?”

“Correct ma'am. I only met the doctor on the way back to the castle and asked him if he'd have time to check Oval out quickly.”

“I see. Please put Oval on his side on my bed, Captain. Hooves facing towards us.”

Curious as to what she had discovered, Shining was a bit distracted situating Oval on the bed that he didn't realize that Captain Rouge was already by the bed holding her potted lily in one hoof. Were she not the Head Captain, Shining would have been more concerned that he didn't even hear her move or even see her go to the desk to retrieve the plant.

Captain Rouge swiftly bit the stem of the lily and partially severed it, while her wings unfurled and slowly started to flap them. The water vapor within the office was condensed into several droplets by the Captain's pegasi magic that she deftly guided into the pot.

“A wounded plant, water to quench it's thirst...” hummed Captain Rouge as she gently took Oval's hoof and planted it into the pot, “...and an earth pony to guide it's recovery.”

Shining refrained from craning his head around his superior to see if any change had occurred, but it was clear from the deep frown Captain Rouge that something was wrong. She sighed after holding the pot for a few seconds, even taking the time to push Oval's hoof deeper into the soil, yet her expression did not change.

“As expected...”

“Captain Rouge?”

She shook her head, “I will inform you later, Shining. Not because I do not trust you, but simply that I want to have a clearer picture myself.”

She removed the pot from Oval's hoof and placed it back onto her desk before turning back to face him, “Before you leave, I'd like to remove that cast you decided would be a good cudgel.”

Shining gave a nervous smile and shakily held out the plastered limb out to Captain Rouge, wondering if the limb was about to be re-broken.

'Don't worry! We're more useful mobile than we are in traction!'

Perhaps sensing the nature of his thoughts or knowing her own...colorful reputation, Captain Rouge gave him an amused glance, “Relax, Captain Armor. I think it's been clearly demonstrated that even when on sick leave, you still manage to get into trouble.”

“Haha...well, I definitely don't go looking for it that's for sure...”

Captain Rouge gave him a saccharine smile that darkened the room briefly, “Oh trust me, Captain Armor. If you had done such a thing, we would be having a very different conversation. But...you would never do something like that...right?”

“YES, MA'AM!”

'YES, MA'AM!/YES, MA'AM!'

“Good boy.” She let his hoof fall to the ground, causing Shining to blink at the unfamiliar sensation of cool air on his suddenly free forelimb. Two cracked halves of plaster lay on the ground already as Captain Rouge continued, “As far as I can tell, your fracture has healed nicely. As such, I am permitting you to return to light active duty until the end of the week, Captain Armor.”

Shining felt a goofy smile break out on his face, but he managed to string together a dignified reply, “Thank you, Captain Rouge!”

“I think a certain Princess of Love, will be happy about the news. Dismissed.” Captain Rouge gave him a knowing smile in return before turning back to Oval.

As he was leaving the office with a slight skip, Shining caught a glimpse of the potted plant now back in it's usual position on Captain Rouge's desk that dulled his jubilance of seeing his marefriend.

The lily was unchanged.

~Equestrian Elegy~

Despite the day he had been having, Shining was in a pretty good mood as he made his way through the castle with the knowledge that he'd be able to see his awesome marefriend very soon.

'It's been like six months since We last saw Cadance!'

'...It's only been a day.'

'Months, We say! MONTHS!'

'Regardless, it will be nice to talk to her again. Hopefully her Manehattan visit wasn't too exhausting.'

'Consider how much hooflicking their Mayor does, it probably wasn't that bad.'

'Doubtful. High society types aren't so different in Manehattan than they are here in the capital.'

Equally annoying.

'Indeed. And while We do not have to interact much with them as Guards-'

Thank Faust.

'Preach it.'

'-We should also consider that this is the first year that Princess Celestia let Cadance handle preparations on her own...'

Shining stopped in the corridor suddenly as this thought occurred to him/Them.

'Mayyyybeee We should stop on by the kitchens and get some of her favourite Triple Fudge Brownies.'

“Bit for your thoughts, Captain?” the low soprano of a mare echoed from an opposing corridor.

Shining Armor glanced as his stoic lieutenant, Cold Trapper, fell into step beside him. The earth pony mare flicked her braided light blue mane over her side and began to move around Shining and examine him for injuries.

“Is there any reason why you were not reporting to the Head Captain alongside me, LT?” Shining bore with her inspection patiently as his lieutenant conducted her practically daily routine.

'Ever the worrywart, whether you're a newly minted Guard or the Captain of a Division.'

“I would not want to step beyond my station, sir. After all, I was not present for the raid.” she replied with a tinge of annoyance.

“Moral support would have been appreciated, nonetheless.”

“I also value my own health.” Apparently satisfied with what she found, or didn't find, she gave an approving nod to Shining before walking alongside him once more.

Shining Armor snorted, “Fair enough, LT.”

“And yours as well.” she added seriously.

'Well...We certainly cannot laugh that off.'

Shining frowned and slowed to a stop as Cold did the same. Despite the both of them knowing that Shining had things well in hand, even if he was by himself, Cold was a bit of a motherhen even when he wasn't injured.

'A bit of a motherhen? Pfft. That's putting it lightly!'

“The auction was already underway and you-”

“Were here in the castle. Doesn't mean I and the rest of the squad won't worry, Shining.” she shook her head distressedly, “It's just frustrating how these kinds of things keep happening when we're not all with you. Other ponies would have to actually seek these situations out whereas crazy seems to be drawn to you.”

Before he could say anything, Cold's next words trailed off into what was sounding like it would be a chastising tune:

COLD

It seems that a day cannot go by,

Where I don't let out a sigh.

When my colt of a Captain

Is raising up one hell of a din.”

♫ ♫

Cold gave a mournful stare out the window that she then directed to a cringing Shining, before she kept on singing.

COLD

Trying to get my Captain to relax,

Is just so hard

When the world is on the attack!

Trying to get him to sit still,

Is just so tough

As everything that could kill

Also tends to play rough!”

♫ ♫

Feeling somewhat vindicated, Shining sang out teasingly in return to his overprotective lieutenant:

US

So you see my problem?

It aint my fault

That I'm always dancing

On the edge of a razor!”

♫ ♫

The cheerful singing of Everglade cut in before Shining could direct the nature of the song away from some of his more...flashy escapades.

EVERGLADE

So whose bright idea was it, exactly~

To take on an Ursa Major?

You try and act so sweet.

Try and seem like a helpless boy

That you just happen to be

Life's favourite chewing toy!”

♫ ♫

Cold and Everglade both smiled at each other in greeting as they started singing in tandem, flanking both of Shining's sides. With a wry smile, he saw other ponies of his Division attracted by the music and looking very much like they wanted to join in on the teasing.

COLD & EVERGLADE

Trying to get our Cap to chill

Is just so hard,

When even a broken leg won't keep him still!

He says he'll take a rest

Try and take it easy~

But then we'll see Captain Zest

Blowing him away like a Breezie!”

♫ ♫

“I'm impressed that you even know what Breezies are.” deadpanned Shining.

“Hey, you try and find a better word rhyming with easy!” laughed Everglade

“It seemed to fit, considering how easily the Captain punted you through a wall.” added Cold with a half-hearted reprimanding glare. A small smirk tugged at the end of her lips as she continued, “That high pitched scream you let out when that happened, also fit.”

“'EEEEEEEE!'...is how I remember that going.” pantomimed Everglade as she acted out the supposed 'memory' of Captain Zest kicking him a bit too hard.

Shining placed a hoof over his heart, “Oh, woe is me, that the mares of my squad are so cruel!”

US

It's not like I plan these things, LT

Even if I try and stay away,

There'll always be a dragon or Captain, you see

Who wants to brighten my day!”

Don't matter whether there's light!

Don't matter whether its during the night!

Don't matter if I'm in the wrong or right!

I'll always end up getting drawn

Into a fight!”

♫ ♫

“Such a trouble magnet...” sighed Cold with a roll of her eyes.

“Well that's why he's got a whole squad to manage him.” Everglade winked at him as she nudged Cold, “We're doing pretty good too, considering Equestria isn't on fire.”

“Oh, are we giving Cap a hard time already? Count me in!” butt in his Fifth Seat, Cookie Crumble. The dark brown unicorn stallion profferred a hoofbump to Ever, that the mare happily returned.

“Hey, I want in on this!” laughed another voice.

“Me too!” joined in another pony.

By the time the kitchens had been reached and the brownies that he was sure Cadance would adore were obtained, he had a small crowd of Guards cheerfully poking fun at him as they started singing what would hopefully be the final verse. However, Shining couldn't help the dumb grin forming, when he listened to the lyrics:

EVERYONE ELSE

Oh, Oh, Oh!

No matter how!

We'll find a way!

Oh, Oh, Oh!

We'll be okay,

We'll stick together

And see it through!”
♫ ♫

COOKIE

By his side, a worried Cold,

Our Cap leads with a heart of gold!”
♫ ♫

A slightly blushing Cold scowled at Cookie and smacked him as Locus joined in with his own baritone.

LOCUS

A stalwart soul,

Who tends to charge in

Like a reckless foal.”
♫ ♫

EVERGLADE

Don't count us out, Cap!

Cuz' we'll be fine!

Don't matter what we face,

We'll hold the line!”
♫ ♫

EVERYONE ELSE

So don't you forget, Cap!

That we got your back!

Through thick and thin!

Rain or fire!

Day or night!

No matter what comes today,

We won't ever stray or sway!”
♫ ♫

Shining smiled as his friends gathered around him with their support and love, singing out as the music started to dip down in volume.

US

Ooooh, I know you all worry,

But I know that no matter what

Through this crazy ride

I can count on my friends

To be by my side!”

♫ ♫

EVERYONE

Oh, Oh, Oh!

No matter how!

We'll find a way!

Oh, Oh, Oh!

We'll be okay,

We'll stick together

And see it through!”

♫ ♫

The song ended on it's final note with a good amount of Division Eight and some castle workers, who were in time to witness a lavishly decorated carriage pulled by two guards descend from the skies and touch down lightly onto the grassy courtyard. The ponies pulling the carriage were Hearty Soul and Sharp Petals, the Captains of Divisions Three and Six respectively.

Once they were on the ground, the two unicorns dismissed their flight spells and went to open the carriage door, though Captain Hearty gave a cheerful wave to the assembled ponies before doing so.

“HELLLOOOOO, CANTERLOT! IT'S GREAT TO BE BACK!” Captain Hearty's good mood was infectious enough to get the watching ponies to break out into a chorus of cheers and good-natured catcalls.

The red-furred Captain Hearty's scruffy appearance was a stark contrast to the cool austere beauty of the dark pink coated Sharp, who with a long-suffering attitude, gave his fellow Captain a swat on the head to hurry him along.

“I would rather not wait for you to finish saying hello to everypony in the courtyard, Captain Hearty.”

“Aw, lighten up, Sharpy!” pouted the older stallion.

“No. Shut up. Open the doors.” curtly responded Captain Sharp.

The familiar bickering got some easy chuckles and snorts from the watching ponies and Shining idly wondered if Princess Celestia had them grouped together so often for that sole purpose.

'That probably ain't too far from the truth. She does like her pranks.'

'To be fair to the Princess, they do have a remarkable synergy.'

With practised eyes, one could tell that even on palace grounds, they were both scanning the area for any signs of hidden danger. Captain Hearty even caught Shining's eye with a significant look that he returned with a fractional shake of his head. Captain Hearty winked and happily trotted over to one of the carriage doors where Captain Sharp was waiting in front of the other. While he knew it was protocol, Shining couldn't help but let out a mieu of disappointment that caused a nearby Everglade to start snickering, when the first pony who stepped out was not Cadance.

Instead, a small white earth pony mare with a pink mane styled in a pixie cut appeared from within the carriage and looked out at the assembled ponies nervously. With a slight tremble in her voice, she mumbled something that was too quiet for anypony save the two captains and the carriage inhabitants to hear.

“Speak up, girl!” boomed a genial voice from within the carriage.

Gloria Sunrise, Lieutenant of the Fourth Division stiffened at her superior's voice and responded much more loudly that had Captains Hearty and Sharp wincing from the volume change. “Y-YES SIR! A-ALL C-CLEAR, PRINCESS!”

Despite the meek and frail demeanour of the pony, Shining knew that Lieutenant Gloria was certainly capable of guarding a princess. It also helped that Cadance would definitely appreciate another girl being with her, considering Captain Violet was with Twily and the Princess.

'Just goes to show that you can never really tell just how frickin' scary somepony is based on their appearance...'

'It is not as if it is very well-known amongst the Guard, either. The Lieutenant's case is really one where 'seeing is believing', after all.'

Shining smiled widely when a muscular older white stallion with finely groomed facial hair helped a resplendent Cadance down from the carriage.

“Thank you, Captain Goldenheart.” Cadance smiled sweetly at the Captain of the Fourth Division and oldest serving member of the Royal Guard who gave a broad smile in return.

“Simply my duty and my pleasure, Princess.” he said with a regal bow. As Cadance stepped onto the neatly trimmed grass, the rest of the ponies, including Shining, followed suit and bowed.

“Please get up, everypony. And thank you for coming out here to meet me when I know you are all probably very busy.” said Cadance earnestly.

Her words were sincere, but Shining could tell that she was a tired from her trip and probably just wanted to relax. Still, Cadance did not balk at the ponies that greeted her warmly, their love for her having a clear strengthening effect that also served to wash away the lingering discomfort that came with other people bowing to her. The tension in Cadance's muscles eased as she continued to mingle with the now dwindling crowd of ponies when her eyes lit upon Shining.

“Shiny...” she breathed out.

All lingering traces of exhaustion fled Cadance's eyes when she espied the chocolate offering held in Shining's hoof and was replaced with a familiar ('And intoxicating!') hunger. She seemed to struggle with maintaining her royal station but Shining could almost see the gears turning in her mind as a decision was made.

“Oh, screw decorum.” Moving faster than even Captain Violet, Cadance's form practically blurred before everypony's eyes and reappeared as she pulled Shining into a searing kiss.

'Oh, buck yes.'

'Mrgllll'

Through the pleasant haze of his thoughts, Shining dimly heard members of his squad wolf-whistling at Cadance's typical display of affection. Perhaps it was because she was the only mare he had ever kissed or because she literally embodied the aspect of love, but their makeout sessions were always mindblowing.

“Yeah! Get some, Captain!” hollered what was probably Everglade. “OW!” The subsequent smack she received could have been anypony, though.

“L-lewd!” That was definitely Lieutenant Gloria.

Rearing back from the kiss with a lascivious grin, Cadance's horn flared with a cerulean hue that matched the lighter tone of Shining's mane. “I'm going back to my chambers and you're coming with me, buster!”

Fwooosh!

“...I really hope they remember to put up a sound-dampening barrier this time...” muttered Captain Sharp.

“Hah! Those two remind me of how much Sweet and I used to go at it!” laughed Hearty boisterously.

“'Dreamy and I certainly put in a lot of effort into making our little angel. It's good that those two are starting earlier than we did.” chimed in Goldenheart approvingly.

Thump!

That proved to be too much as a crimson-hued Gloria fell over, covering her face with her forelimbs and muttering incoherently about public displays of affection.

~Equestrian Elegy~

Wow...That was...just...Wow.” puffed out Shining, rolling to the other side of the bed and off of a very satisfied looking marefriend.

Wow, indeed, Captain Armor. You did your country a great service.” Cadance's seductive croon morphed into a mock serious tone that had them both laughing and clutching each other.

'Faust, We love it when you do...that...tongue thing. Wow...'

“Considering how early Logic conked out, I think that's obvious.” replied Cadance with a cheeky smirk.

'Love...you...'

There were only four ponies in the world who knew about Shining's odd...roommates. They included: His parents, Princess Celestia and of course, Cadance. He wanted to wait until Spike was a bit older before telling both him and Twily, so that neither sibling would feel left out.

“Oh! Looks like he's back!” piped in Cadance.

Due to a strange combination of her position as an Alicorn of Love and their own romantic relationship, Cadance was the only pony able to hear his other selves. While just as surprised as the others were, she simply shrugged and said she loved all of him, right before pouncing on him with a husky look in her eyes.

'That reminds Us...'

“Mmm, since you didn't give me a chance to say it before: Welcome back, Cadance.” murmured Shining as he nuzzled the top of Cadance's mane before tenderly kissing her forehead.

Cadance giggled, “Shouldn't have brought me brownies then, dork.” she then sighed contentedly and sank her head into Shining's barrel, “I missed you too, Shiny. Those nobles in Manehattan were so annoying!

'We figured. Considering how a lot of the ones here suck.'

Cadance snorted, “I suppose in comparison they're about equal. But since Auntie wasn't with me this year, they focused all their attention on me! It was just supposed to be a discussion with Mayor Fern about how preparations were going! Decorations, security, food, venue...simple!”

She huffed, “But, nooo. He decides to bring in a bunch of hoity-toity ponies who want to talk about limiting who can participating in the celebration. Or that as some of the backers who were helping to fund the celebration, they should get certain tax benefits? The other ponies who helped but aren't high-society? Oh, what about them?!”

Cadance proceeded to go on a mini-rant about each of the nobles she met in Manehattan and started to list off the ten most annoying quirks about all of them. She probably would have worked herself up into even greater heights of anger had Shining not constantly been stroking her mane or murmuring affectations in her ears.

“...and then they go on and on about how well their own businesses and holdings are doing and wouldn't it just be a marvellous idea if I could go down and visit them? Maybe even meet one of their sons!”

'“What. What. What.”'

Seeing the look on his face, Cadance kissed him which temporarily halted all plans of impending violence. “Easy there, Captain Armor. I said it in very clear terms that this Princess was already taken.”

“Lucky me, then.” he answered with a kiss of his own.

Cadance broke away with flushed cheeks and a smile, “Don't get too high and mighty there, dork. Twilight is the reason we even got together, you were just a side benefit.” she teased.

'Oh, it is so on!'

“You might be a princess, but don't think you'll be able to take my LSBFF from me that easily.” growled Shining, rolling on top of his marefriend.

“Do you think yourself strong enough to deny a Princess of Equestria, commoner?” she mocked imperiously. It was a challenge that Shining gleefully replied to by locking their lips together in a passionate embrace once more.

The ensuing amorous battle was shorter than their last encounter, but no less pleasurable and soon enough they were both breathily moaning the other's names. But like every time they got into such an 'argument', there was always only one pony who came out consistently on top.

Feeling a great deal more weary, Shining half-heartedly glared at his smug looking marefriend. “That...is...so not fair...” he huffed.

'Mrggglll...'

'Uh...We think...We're done...for tonight...'

Cadance languidly stretched her alluring form across the bed, showing no trace of exhaustion whatsoever from their sexual activities. “Alicorn of Love, baby. All that lovin' only made me stronger. Doesn't matter how much PT you do, though it is very much appreciated. Mmmmm~” Cadance gave a little throaty purr of approval that was almost enough to get Shining going again.

'No can do Cap, We be dry as a bone.'

“You suck.” Shining wasn't entirely sure who he was referring to, but it was Cadance who chose to answer.

“I know that very well and so do you, based on how much you were moaning my name.” countered Cadance with a wicked smirk that set Shining's cheeks aflame. “But I'll let you rest for now. Can't do much guarding if you can't move after all~

Shining weakly chuckled and cuddled up next to her, “Faust, I missed you.”

Cadance sighed happily as he enveloped her in his forelimbs, “You still up for telling me how your day went?” she asked.

“If you'll listen. It's been kind of a long day.” he sighed.

“Bad?” asked Cadance worriedly.

“No, no...just...tiring...” reassured Shining as he started to cover most of the events of the day, saving the part where he suspected of there being a traitor within the castle for the end.

At one point in his retelling, Cadance had turned around in his embrace and gave him a flat stare. “A dragon, Shiny? Really? You fought a dragon?”

“N-No, not head on!” he explained hurriedly.

'We didn't even touch the guy! We just choked him out!'

'Magical asphyxiation. No physical contact needed!'

“All this and a Dust auction...that wasn't a bad day?” asked Cadance incredulously.

“No. No one got too hurt-” he began earnestly.

'Apart from those minotaurs.'

“-Well, they weren't banged up too badly. So...yeah today wasn't great, but we got to catch a lot of criminals today and stop them from potentially hurting others in the future. And I even got to spend more time with you!”

'There is one other thing though. We can't say this out loud either.'

'Only Captain Rouge, the Princess, Us and now you are to be informed about it.'

Cadance had a grave look on her face, but nodded for Shining to continue.

'Now this ain't a definite thing...might even just be Our imagination. But...the Head thought We were making some sense.'

'During the course of Our investigation we came upon the potential discovery that there may be somepony within the castle...leaking information.'

“Shining, what-?!” Cadance looked rightfully alarmed as he held up a hoof to her lips.

'We don't have anything definite. Captain Rouge said she'd look in on it before getting a proper start on it tomorrow.'

'It may turn out to be nothing at all, but for obvious reasons, this needs to be kept quiet.'

Cadance was understandably upset, but she nodded before settling back onto the bed, “Still not a bad day, then?”

“No. Not today, at least.” said Shining quietly.

“...Things were so much easier when we were still in high school...” whispered Cadance after a few moments of silence.

“Says you.” snorted Shining, “Working up the nerve to ask the most popular girl out is still the scariest thing I've ever done.”

Cadance chuckled and nuzzled Shining fondly, “Well, I'm certainly glad you took the plunge, Captain Armor.”

They cuddled for some time after that, telling each other little innocuous things that they had heard or seen as their eyes started to droop shut, even though only one of them really needed a regular amount of sleep.

“Gloria was such a darling today, you know? Managed to sneak me this great hayburger during the luncheon the nobles prepared for us.”

It was a ritual the two shared as they talked about the good things that had happened, so as to end the day on a positive note.

“So she was a good choice to go along with you, then?”

“Oh, definitely. Not that the others were bad by any means. They all kept me from bucking some of the more pompous nobles in the face.”

“Yeah?”

“Like, Sharp would out-noble them with better manners or knowledge and they would all be impressed and trying to suck up to him, or want to suck his face in the case of one mare, while Hearty would be looking and acting like a total slob and he'd be the only one Sharp would give the time of day to!”

“And Captain Goldenheart?”

“Basically acted like a doting grandfather to me and Gloria and terrifying anypony who looked at her funny.”

'Classic Goldenheart.'

“One of the ponies in my squad – Fair Winds – told me that he found out yesterday that his wife was pregnant.”

'Most of the city knows, considering how much he was singing about it.'

“Aww, that's wonderful. I'll have to pay them a visit for sure.”

“He's got a little daughter too that's really affectionate. Tries to hug the stuffing out of everypony who enters.”

'She really gets good use out of those tiny wings of hers, that's for sure.'

“So that'll definitely be on my schedule tomorrow.”

'...We might be a little busy tomorrow, Cadance, the-'

“-Summer Sun Celebration is tomorrow.”

“...Hm.”

“Cadance.”

“I only need to make two public appearances tomorrow after all.”

“...I'm technically cleared for active duty now. I can go in early tomorrow and direct our route to pass by his place.”

'Is there a way We can make a whipping sound effect in here?'

“Yes! Best coltfriend ever!”

Shining rolled his eyes as his marefriend started giggling and set up a basic perimeter ward and a few dozen passive shielding spells around their bed. Seeing the defensive spells being erected, Cadance huffed with a bit of exasperation, though didn't raise any objection considering this was how he normally behaved anyway. Just before they drifted off, however, they traded the most important words they said to each other at least once a day.

“Night, Cadance. I love you.”

'Always.'

She gave him sleepy smile, “Goodnight, Shiny. I love you too.”

'Now and forever.'

~Equestrian Elegy~

The next thing Shining knew, he was being frantically shaken awake by a terrified-sounding Cadance.

“Shining...? Shiny! Wake up! Please!” It wasn't a loud sound by any means, but it was filled with so much awful terror and sadness that it had Shining instantly propelled into wakefulness.

'Nothing in the room!'

“Cadance?! What's wrong-?!”

'Scanning perimeter.'

His eyes focused on the watery-eyed smile of Cadance in the dim moonlight flooding the room. Cadance choked down a sob and flung herself at Shining, holding onto him desperately. “You're still here! You're still here...! I didn't miss it...! There's still time!”

Flabbergasted as to what could have happened, Shining didn't have enough time to get in another word before Cadance ripped out of the embrace and looked out the window with fear etched on her face.

'There's nothing out there...?'

“Auntie...” she whispered. Her horn glowed a shimmering blue that enveloped her entire body before she-

Pop!

“CADANCE!”

'We need to get to her side!'

Thump! Thump! Thump!

“Princess! Captain Armor! Is everything alright?!” a rapid series of knocks came on the door and a voice belonging to Gloria Sunrise, lacking any of her typical nervous demeanor, rang out clear and true in the ensuing silence left behind by Cadance's exit.

In lieu of an answer, Shining ripped open the doors with his magic while simultaneously putting on his armor that had been scattered across the room. Gloria was the first to enter the room, closely followed by Captain Sharp as the two carefully took in the room. Before either could get a word in, Shining beat them to it:

“Cadance had a...nightmare of some kind. One that scared her enough that she was legitimately worried for the Princess' safety and Displaced herself, presumably to her side.” he began, holding a hoof out to Gloria. Understanding his intentions, she immediately grasped hold of it while Captain Sharp started to power up his own Displacement spell.

Pop!

“What the-?!” One of the guards stationed outside of Princess Celestia's chambers started when Shining and Gloria appeared in front of him. He and his partner both levelled their spears at them before realizing who they were, though Shining only had eyes for the dimly glowing orange sun above the doors.

“Captain Armor! Lieutenant Sunrise!” exclaimed the other guard.

Pop!

“Captain Sharp? What-?”

“Soldier, report. Any odd activity within the Princess' chambers?” cut off Shining with a brusque wave of his hoof.

Straightening at the tone of command in his voice, the soldier replied: “Two cleared ward flashes, sir. A few minutes apart, with the most recent being a few seconds-”

Everypony present stopped and stared as the solar symbol above the doorframe lit up with a dark blue glow before fading out into nothing.

“She left? But she just got-”

Without a word, Captain Sharp pushed open the doors to the Princess' room that was devoid of any sound, save for the soft breaths of the Princess' pet phoenix. Shining, Gloria and the two guards who had gone very quiet seeing the seriousness of their superiors followed in after him. One of the last ponies to enter must have flipped a switch as the room suddenly became engulfed in light.

'Rolling for Investigation.'

'A seven?! Come on!'

The memories of Cadance's stricken expression impeded Shining's abilities to effectively case the room for clues. Luckily, he had some very reliable comrades who did what Shining could not in this moment. Captain Sharp tensed for a brief moment as his eyes caught sight of something on the balcony before his horn was wreathed in a pink nimbus of power. An answering pink glow came in the form of a slightly torn sheet of paper held within the telekinetic grasp of the Sixth Division Captain.

'There's writing on it. A letter perhaps? But who-'

“Deearr Prin-ccess . Twili ght had night mare. Crying lots.

Scared. Wants you.

Now!

-Spike”

Twily.” gasped Shining.

'She's probably in their tower!'

Captain Sharp was saying something and Gloria was looking at him worriedly.

'She NEEDS help!'

He barely registered his horn giving off short sparks.

“Captain Armor, calm yoursel-!”

'Too slow. Too slow! TOO SLOW!'

It was all just white noise to him and it just. Didn't. Matter.

'WHY ARE WE STILLHERE?!?!'

Pop!

“TWILY! CADANCE!”

“Shiny?” “S-Shining?” “Shining!” “Captain Armor?”

'Rolling for Medicine.'

Shining absently noted that the Princess, Cadance and his siblings were in the middle of a hugpile. Spike's letter flashed in his mind, however, and so he frantically checked them all over for injuries as best he could.

'Ahhh, We got a four!'

“Twily?! Cadance?! Are you two okay?! What happened?!”

“Shiny, we're fine-”

Pop!

““Captain Armor!”” Captain Sharp and Gloria had evidently caught up with him.

The multitude of voices started to increase in volume until it was silenced suddenly by one pony.

“Enough.”

It was a single word. But coming from the Princess, the gentle command was enough to quell everyone instantly.

“My little ponies...and precious dragon-” she added with a wink towards Spike who beamed happily towards her, “Please, calm yourselves and let me explain...”

~Equestrian Elegy~

'Castle of the Two Sisters, huh? Yeesh. Talk about a spooky location.'

“It's definitely not the nicest place in the world, from what little Auntie would tell me.” whispered Cadance, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb the tense standoff taking place within the throne room.

'Spooky may not be the correct term. Not by itself anyway. Dangerous would be another good descriptor. One can only imagine the kind of environment left behind in a pitched battle between three alicorns.'

“So why ban Captain Rouge from coming along, then?...” trailed off Shining, who like his marefriend and everyone else were observing the voiceless battle of wills between Princess Celestia and Captain Rouge.

'...It's possible they're using telepathy.'

'No duh.'

Cadance let out an odd cough in her attempt to stifle the snort that Shining had seen building up and bumped him gently in admonition. Assembled within the cavernous throne room were himself, Cadance, Captain Goldenheart, Captain Sharp and Lieutenant Gloria. All of them, even Captain Sharp, had their mouths hanging slightly open at the totally alien expression of defiance and sorrow on Captain Rouge's face.

'This is making Us REALLY uncomfortable...'

Captain Rouge suddenly sagged in place looking very tired, speaking up for the first time in five minutes. “Still no good, then? Figures-”

The Head Captain's bitter words were cut off as she was suddenly enveloped in the warm embrace of Princess Celestia. The alicorn's large wings blocked off whatever expression Captain Rouge was wearing and whatever the Princess said to her was for her ears only. Shining let out a breath he didn't know he was holding when the hug was ended and the two ponies weren't looking so sad anymore.

“Behold the power of Auntie's hugs~” breathed out Cadance with a slightly euphoric smile.

'They have a lot of love?'

“Tons~” she sighed happily, before absently pecking a kiss on Shining's cheek.

Princess Celestia and Captain Rouge pulled apart from one another, smiled softly at each other, and turned to face the rest of them.

“My little ponies, the individuals who will be accompanying myself and Princess Cadenza to the Castle of...” Princess Celestia looked pained for a moment before she began in a softer voice, “...to the Everfree Forest...”

She paused and then made sure to lock eyes with everypony within the room, “...will include Captain Sharp, Captain Goldenheart-”

The two senior Captains nodded, tacitly accepting their orders.

Princess Celestia's lips curved upwards, “-Lieutenant Gloria-”

'Solid choice.'

'Mhmm.'

“M-Me, your m-majesty?” stammered Gloria.

“I would not ask if I did not think you capable, Gloria.” said Princess Celestia gently.

“All you're missing is CONFIDENCE, girl!” laughed Captain Goldenheart, though he did so with a kind smile and a proud look in his eyes.

Flinching at her Captain's loud voice, Gloria had a small smile building up and looked at the Princess with renewed determination. “I won't let you down, Princess.”

“And Captain Armor.” added Captain Rouge, still looking a bit withdrawn.

“Of course.” agreed the Princess amicably. She looked at Shining out of the corner of her eye with a sly smile, “I am sure that even if he wasn't chosen, he would try and follow regardless of orders.”

Cadance being the adorable traitor she was, started giggling as everypony within the room looked at Shining expectantly.

'...Roll for Deception...'

'Seventeen, oh yeah!-'

'...with disadvantage...'

“That's not true.” lied Shining as best he could.

'...Nine is still pretty good.'

The smiles and soft laughter that followed his words helped dispel the tense atmosphere considerably and Shining figured he would take the hit to his dignity with good grace. Still, he was apprehensive at the upcoming journey to the Everfree and what they may find there; a feeling that did not go unnoticed thankfully.

Sensing the lingering knot of fear within him, Cadance's hoof overlapped his own and she leaned against him slightly. “It'll be okay, Shiny.” she whispered softly.

'Hopefully.'

~Equestrian Elegy~

The Royal Guard

The following is a list and basic description of the Royal Guards who appeared within this chapter. I will repeat this every time with an updated list for every similar Perspective chapter featuring the Royal Guard.

Division 0

???: Fluffle Puff

  • Species: ??? Pony, Mare
  • Appearance: Pink ball of fluff
  • Cutie Mark: [REDACTED]

Division 1

Captain: Rouge Blossom

  • Species: Pegasus Pony, Mare
  • Appearance: Off-white coat and black mane that is set into an intricate braid curving around her neck and hanging underneath her chin. Slender and long-legged, she has the looks of a model rather than an elite Guard. She is often seen wearing a doctor's lab coat that covers her flanks. Where her cutie mark might be, there are large burned areas obscuring whatever it looked like.
  • Cutie Mark: Completely obscured by large burn scars.

Lieutenant: Clear Aspirant

  • Species: Unicorn Pony, Mare
  • Appearance: Larger than several stallions and lithely muscled. She has a cream coat and light purple mane with two long strands braided and hanging down past the corner of her right eye.
  • Cutie Mark: A steaming bowl of porridge.

Division 2

8th Seat: Minty Fresh

  • Species: Unicorn Pony, Mare
  • Appearance: Smooth mint-green coat and white mane
  • Cutie Mark: A sprig of mint

Unseated Officers:

  • Umbral Bulk

    • Black earth pony stallion who worked with Silent and Shining to subdue a minotaur guard during the 'Dark Auction Raid'
    • Cutie Mark: A large, dark-blue cloak
  • Silent Steps

    • Grey earth pony mare who worked with Umbral and Shining to subdue a minotaur guard during the 'Dark Auction Raid'
    • Cutie Mark: A pair of hooves on a dark cloud

Division 3

Captain: Hearty Soul

  • Species: Unicorn Pony, Stallion
  • Appearance: Scruffy appearance with a spiky black mane, wispy beard and dark red coat.
  • Cutie Mark: An explosion

Unseated Officers:

  • Ground Springs

    • Earth pony stallion with a deep brown coat – Participated in the 'Dark Auction Raid' led by Captain Shining Armor

Division 4

Captain: Goldenheart

  • Species: Unicorn Pony, Stallion
  • Appearance: Pepper grey mane with hints of gold and several wrinkles on his face. White body. Finely groomed moustache and chin beard styled as a van dyke. Pretty heavily muscled. Handsome
  • Cutie Mark: Cartoon golden heart

Lieutenant:Gloria Sunrise

  • Species: Earth Pony, Mare
  • Appearance: Slight white pony with a pink mane styled in a pixie cut.
  • Cutie Mark: A roaring, fanged maw

Division 6

Captain: Sharp Petals

  • Species: Unicorn Pony, Stallion
  • Appearance: Austere beauty with a dark pink coat and long black mane. Attractive to both genders.
  • Cutie Mark: Sakura blossom petals floating in the wind.

Division 8

Captain: Shining Armor

  • Species: Unicorn Pony, Stallion
  • Appearance: White coat with a two-toned blue mane. Slightly above average height for a stallion. Muscular and toned body.
  • Cutie Mark: Knight's shield with symbol of Magic emblazoned on it's surface, with three blue stars just above it.

Lieutenant: Cold Trapper

  • Species: Earth Pony, Mare
  • Appearance: Grey coat and very light blue mane styled in a flowing manner and bound in a loose ponytail on her side. Muscular for a mare and tends to wear a crooked grin.
  • Cutie Mark: Vibrant looking grass covered in hoarfrost.

3rd Seat: Locus Wellspring

  • Species: Unicorn Pony, Stallion
  • Appearance: Slim with a black coat and a light green mane.
  • Cutie Mark: A clear pool of water ringed by small, burnished grey stones.

4th Seat: Everglade

  • Species: Pegasus Pony, Mare
  • Appearance: Dark green coat with a short brown mane.
  • Cutie Mark: A pair of fully unfurled pegasus wings.

5th Seat: Cookie Crumble

  • Species: Unicorn Pony, Stallion
  • Appearance: Dark brown coat with a long grey mane pulled into a ponytail
  • Cutie Mark: Shovel halfway buried in dirt

Unseated Officers:

  • Soaring Heart

    • Pegasus stallion who participated in the 'Dark Auction Raid' led by his Captain
    • Light blue coat with a shortly cropped black mane.
    • Cutie Mark: A pair of interlocking rings
  • Willow Wizz

    • Unicorn mare who participated in the 'Dark Auction Raid' led by her Captain. Was made team leader of R3 during the Raid.
    • Pink coat with a triple toned mane of blue, red and green pulled into a ponytail.
    • Cutie Mark: A slender tree bending in an unseen wind.
  • Reverb Notes

    • Earth pony mare who participated in the 'Dark Auction Raid' led by her Captain
    • Silver coat with a black mane partially braided on one side and reaching down slightly past her jaw.
    • Cutie Mark: A pair of musical notes that look like the mirror image of one another.
Author's Note:

Sorry about the long wait folks! Lots of procrastination and writer's block don't really make a story update so fast.
Go figure.

So! This chapter is less of a 'plot progression' type and more of a 'plot expansion' in which I show a bit more how my version of the MLP world differs from canon.

Also, early changeling stuff because I don't like doing things in order.

The main reason I chose Shining Armor as the feature of this 'Perspective' chapter and did the whole Royal Guard restructuring was because I made a mistake in the last chapter. In the last chapter, Cadance referred to Shining as 'Captain Armor', which would have made sense had this been in the canon timeline, rather than in the past where Shining shouldn't have been in the Guard long enough to oversee the entire damn thing.

Now any sane author would have just retconned this and apologized in the following chapter for the confusion, but I decided to double, triple and quadruple down on everything and try to write myself out of a corner. In doing so, I created a whole new Royal Guard system (with a lot of inspiration taken from the anime Bleach to fill in the ranks. And for those who know the show, don't worry, there'll be none of the crazy powers seen in that series crossing over into this story.) and put in the changeling stuff that I was going to hint at in the next chapter anyway.

Not sure where the inner voices stuff came from (and their origin WILL be explored later on), but I'm a huge Dungeons and Dragons nerd and Shining being the equivalent in canon was just something I had to shoehorn in somehow.

The result is as you see.

Not sure how it turned out though, but I like it.

As you can see by the word count, it turned out to be slightly longer than I was expecting.

These 'Perspective' chapters won't come up often, so rest assured that we WILL be moving back to Harry next time (whenever that may be...). That being said, I hope you guys enjoy this chapter and if not, try and keep the insults to a PG-13 level so as not to damage my fragile ego too badly.